NORTH ANDOVER – The latest challenge being undertaken by North Andover High School thespians offers suspense, romance, a bit of humor and plenty of action.
The plot is rather complicated. After numerous ups and downs, the hero, his wife and daughter live happily ever after. “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” will be presented Nov. 10 at 2:30 and 7 p.m. and Nov. 11 at 3 p.m. in the North Andover High School auditorium. Tickets cost $10.
The following weekend, the cast will perform the 90-minute play at the Shakespeare Festival in Lenox in Western Massachusetts.
Pericles, played by Alex Durfee, a senior, travels to Antioch, where he meets the daughter of the king, Antiochus. He takes a liking to the king’s daughter, but discovers she’s involved in an incestuous relationship with her father.
“Pericles is fearing for his life,” Durfee explained. If the king finds out he knows about this depravity, he’s a dead man.
So Pericles flees to Tarsus, which has been stricken with a drought. Pericles, however, brings corn, with which the people make bread.
Then the restless prince sets sail again. This time, he gets shipwrecked and ends up at Pentapolis, He’s rescued by some fishermen, who tell him their king, Simonides, is seeking a suitable mate for his daughter, Thaisa, portrayed by Shannon Hill.
The princess’ birthday happens to occur the next day and Pericles joins other young men in competing for her affection. “I end up winning,” Durfee said. “It’s a love at first sight thing.”
Pericles and Thaisa get married, Thaisa gives birth to a daughter but – she dies in childbirth. A grief-stricken Pericles agrees to have his wife’s body tossed overboard.
Thaisa’s corpse, however, washes up on land and a healer, Cerimon, brings her back to life. Unaware of his wife’s resuscitation, Pericles has his daughter, Marina, adopted.
Marina, Carolyn Noyes in real life is eventually sold into prostitution – but she acquires the power to reform her would-be customers into holy, God-fearing men.
In the end, Pericles, Thaisa and Marina are reunited. Presumably, they live happily ever after.
“It keeps you on your toes,” said Kate Quinlan, who portrays Arcanus, one of Pericles’ advisers.
“It’s so interesting,” said Nadia Zawil, one of the narrators.
While William Shakespeare is credited with writing “Pericles, the Prince of Tyre,” he based the play on an epic poem penned by John Gower.
Four students are cast as Gower and narrate the play: Zawil, Liz Kolenski, James McDaniel and Amanda Hill. The play is being directed by Tom Jaeger and Conor Moroney of Shakespeare & Company.
Starting next week, they expect to have the cast rehearsing after school until 9 p.m. each day. At North Andover High, the annual Shakespeare production has become a tradition.
Last year, students produced “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” first at the high school, then at the festival in Lenox, where drama groups from around the state perform plays by Shakespeare.
Karen Kramer, costume designer for this year’s play, said theater gives students confidence and “teaches them to think beyond the box.” Kramer’s daughter Leah Kramer graduated from North Andover High in 2004 and is now in her final year at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine.