Review: 'Pericles' rock musical makes Bard's tale sing

By Kathy L. Greenberg, Tribune correspondent, August 12, 2009

"Pericles: The New Rock Musical" is a raucous force of nature, so naturally Jobsite Theater produced it.

Fresh from the minds of musician/writer Joe Popp and Jobsite fellows Neil Gobioff and Shawn Paonessa, this is a butt-kicking, rocked-out adaptation of the Shakespearean play "Pericles, Prince of Tyre."

It makes no difference whether you've read the original (one of the few dogs in the Bard's repertoire) or limited yourself to "Hamlet." This version, directed by David M. Jenkins, is strong enough to stand alone.

In the subterranean world of the modern mafia -- today's representatives being far less glamorous than those of the '20s and '30s -- Perry (Stephen Ray) answers a dangerous riddle posed by the tracksuit-clad Fat Tony (Chris Perez). The prize for the riddle-solver is Tony's daughter (Katie Castonguay), while the loser gets whacked. But the whole game is a ruse, because Tony has no intention of giving the girl away; he wants her for himself. And when Perry understands that solving the riddle reveals the incestuous relationship -- something even Fat Tony knows to keep quiet -- he has to run for the hills to escape the Boss' hit men.

The hills turn out to be Coney Island, where Perry finds himself crowned king. He runs again, only to find himself shipwrecked on Cape Cod, where Talia (Ami Sallee Corley) rescues him. She's part of a Kennedy-esque family that is just as corrupt as Fat Tony's, albeit better dressed. Even the charity golf tournament, featuring a teetotaling priest (Jason Vaughan Evans), is tainted.

The epic journey theme really kicks in when Talia and Perry fall in love. They make a baby (Castonguay doubles as the grownup Marina), get married, lose each other in another boating disaster, find each other again at an abbey in Montauk, N.Y. (where Spencer Meyers bops hilariously), and live happily ever after.

It's the classic love story, with a twist.

Popp's loud but (thankfully) not ear-splitting guitar and lyrics punctuate the characters' emotions. The actors step out of their usual world of theater and into a rock concert to show how their characters feel. With microphones in hand, they belt out a range of music genres, from rock to country to love ballads. Then they slip back into theater mode the minute the mikes hit the stands.

It's clear that Jobsite has worked to create a non-musical musical. Rather than blending dialogue with song as though there were no distinction between the two, here there's a definite break, making the flow a bit disjointed. Nevertheless, the music is what makes this play so entertaining. Sure, the storyline is good. The acting is good (Corley and Amy E. Gray as Dion, et al, are especially deft). The text, while straight out of an episode of "The Sopranos," is delightfully smartass and rude. But the music is what makes this production really sing.

Also See:

Jobsite's Pericles Rocks the Bay – Creative Loafing

'Pericles' pops, thanks to Joe Popp – St. Petersburg Times

Jobsite's 'Pericles' – ARTS NET, Tampa Bay

Pericles, Prince of Tires – Reax Music

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