pursued by a bear

Jealousy’s cold dark heart, melting

On the outdoor stage of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, this season's "Winter’s Tale" bends toward forgiveness, not justice

By SUZI STEFFEN

ASHLAND – A man tells his pregnant wife to hang out with his best friend and make the friend feel welcome enough that he’ll stay longer than his planned nine-month visit. When she does just that, the man gets jealous and tries to have a loyal servant kill the best friend. He imprisons his wife and treats her and their older child (and heir) so badly that the boy dies. The woman has her baby, a girl, in prison. The man puts his wife on trial and treats her so viciously that she also dies. He sends a close advisor/servant with the baby girl on orders that she be exposed on a rock somewhere far away, after which the advisor dies in the most famous stage direction ever written. The ship that brought the advisor and the baby to the place where the baby is to be left to die founders in a storm, with all hands aboard drowning.

Leontes (Eric Steinberg) is tortured by jealous thoughts as his friend Polixenes (James Ryen), son Mamillius (Naomi Nelson) and wife Hermione (Amy Kim Waschke) play in the background. Photo: Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Leontes (Eric Steinberg) is tortured by jealous thoughts as his friend Polixenes (James Ryen), son Mamillius (Naomi Nelson) and wife Hermione (Amy Kim Waschke) play in the background. Photo: Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

That’s a summary of the tragic, grim, pre-intermission plot of The Winter’s Tale. This late Shakespearean romance runs through October outside at the Allen Elizabethan Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. “A sad tale’s best for winter,” says the young heir to the throne (did I mention the jealous man is a king and his wife a queen?) before he dies, and the first half is indeed chilling. But don’t forget: Summer is coming.

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