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Theater review: 'The Winter's Tale' -- 2.5 stars

The Winter's Tale

The Winter's Tale Credit: Handout

The Winter's Tale

2.5 stars

For all his faults, Othello is at least worthy of our pity. After all, Iago poisons Othello's mind to make him believe that Desdemona is committing adultery.

But in Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale," Leontes, the King of Sicilia, only has himself to blame for his downfall. When he becomes convinced that his loving wife Hermoine is sleeping with his best friend Poli-xenes, the King of Bohemia, it is entirely the result of his own irrational paranoia, which ends up destroying his family and throwing his kingdom into chaos.

David Farr's production, which marks the fourth to be presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company in its residence at the Park Avenue Armory, is not all that different from other recent stagings of the play. While it is certainly not the worst production to be presented so far by the RSC, it is the least exciting and original.

The first half of the play, which charts Leontes' ongoing suspicions and Hermoine's trial, is set in a stately, candle-lit Edwardian atmosphere. When the setting shifts to Bohemia, two towering bookshelves tilt over, causing all the books to fall down. It is a striking scenic effect to mark the destruction of one world and the transition into another.

The scenes in rural Bohemia are far less well-staged and fall flat. Still, the famous moment where a bear kills one of Leontes' servants is reinterpreted in a "War Horse" style, with a team of actors manipulating a giant puppet made out of paper.

Greg Hicks' captivating performance as Leontes is definitely the production's best asset. Hicks physically conveys how the character's suspicions have driven him into a state of terror and insecurity.

Kelly Hunter makes for an unusually aggressive Hermoine. Barefoot and wearing a dress stained with dirt and blood, Hunter screams in agony back at her husband while on trial.

A few company members are better cast here than in some of the other plays. Tonji Kasim, whose young and boyish presence is inappropriate for the villainous Edmund in "King Lear," is decent as Prince Florizel.

If you go: "The Winter's Tale" plays through Aug. 14 at the Park Avenue Armory. 643 Park Ave., 212-721-6500,

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