Seana McKenna, one of the leading actresses in Canada, comes south of the border this winter to play the wronged queen, Hermione, in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, at Missouri Repertory Theatre, Feb. 1-24.
Chicago-area director Henry Godinez stages what Missouri Rep is calling the city's professional premiere of the late romance by the Bard (the play was written circa 1610). The play begins with one of the most shocking public denunciations of a Shakespeare character since Much Ado About Nothing. King Leontes of Sicilia is so sure that Hermione has been an adulteress with his childhood friend, the visiting King Polixenes of Bohemia, that he orders her jailed, the king killed and their supposed "bastard" infant left in some "remote and desert place." His outrageous, insane delusion of the supposed infidelity leads to the death of his son, the loss of his daughter and the death of the queen (to say nothing of the emotional shattering of a kingdom and the deaths of trusted subjects such as Antigonus, who "exits, chased by a bear"). Some 16 years of unhappiness and repentance follow. Time passes. In pastoral Bohemia, love is abloom and resurrection is the theme. In one of Shakespeare's most magical and heartbreaking reunions, past sins make way for final happiness.
Seana McKenna has spent 10 seasons with the Stratford Festival where her Shakespearean roles have included Juliet, Viola, Cordelia, Lady Macbeth, Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Titania and Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and most recently, the Chorus in Henry V. Among other roles there have been Amanda in Private Lives, Dorine in Tartuffe, Lady Sneerwell in The School For Scandal, Hannah in Night of the Iguana and the title roles in Medea and the premiere of Good Mother. This coming season she plays Margaret of Anjou (and later Queen Margaret) in Henry VI, Queen Elizabeth in Richard III. Starting at Victoria's Belfry Theatre, McKenna toured with the first Canadian production of The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. She has starred in Pygmalion, Candida (Shaw Festival), Hedda Gabler, Born Yesterday, Dancing at Lughnasa, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire and the Canadian premiere of Wit (Manitoba Theatre Centre). In the United States, McKenna has appeared at Boston's Huntington Theatre as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire and as Jean Louise in To Kill a Mockingbird. She has also performed at Chicago's Court and Goodman Theatres, in How I Learned to Drive at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, and Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.
The cast includes Alicia Atkins (Mopsa), Brad Bolman (Mamillius), Taylor Clearman (Lady), Jeffrey Cribbs (Lord), Sandra Delgado (Perdita), Anne Dillon (Emilia), Mark Espinoza (Autolycus), Phil Fiorini (Archidamus), Michael Fisher (Servant), Joe Foust (Young Shepherd), Larry Greer (Jailer), Brent Harris (Leontes), Lorenzo Hughes (Dion), Gary Neal Johnson (Time), James Knight (Lord), Neil Maffin (Polixenes),Manu Narayan (Florizel), Larry Paulsen (Old Shepherd), Joe Price (Mariner), Mark Robbins (Cleomenes), Carmen Roman (Paulina), Brianne Rose (Dorcas, Lady), Adam Scally (Servant), Jeff Talbott (Camillo), Richard Wharton (Antigonus) and Spencer Wilson (Mamillius).
Director Godinez is making his Missouri Repertory Theatre debut. He is an artistic associate of the Goodman Theatre and co-founder of Teatro Vista in Chicago. At the Goodman he has directed A Christmas Carol for six seasons, Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez, and the world premieres of Straight as a Line and Millennium Mambo, which was restaged in New York as Urban Zulu Mambo at Signature Theatre. For Teatro Vista he has directed El Paso Blue, Journey of the Sparrows, Santos & Santos, Broken Eggs and the English language premiere of The Crossing. her is also an actor whose credits include Polixenes in The Winter's Tale. Designers are Christopher Acebo (set), Holly Poe Durbin (costume), Rita Pietraszek (lighting) and Tom Mardikes (sound). Composer is John Kamys. William Whitener, artistic director of the Kansas City Ballet, choreographs.
For ticket information, call (816) 235-2700 or (888) 502-2700.
— By Kenneth Jones