August 21, 2015

Even among the beleaguered heroes and heroines of Shakespeare’s late romances, the title character of “Pericles” stands out for the weight of strange misfortunes that chase him around the Mediterranean, and more than once dump him in it when the ships he’s traveling aboard founder. (A favorite stage direction: “Enter Pericles, wet.”) He’s forced to flee his home country, Tyre, after he divines the secret of the temperamental ruler of Antioch — namely that he has been sleeping with his own daughter — and fears violent retribution. Later blows include the deaths of his wife and his daughter, although this being a romance, those disasters ultimately prove to be illusions. In a new production of the play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, directed by Joseph Haj, Pericles’ trials are given a glossy sheen that soothes the impact of his reversals — for us, at least, if not for him. Mr. Haj, recently appointed the artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, stages this tumultuous play on a clean-lined, simple set by Jan Chambers, featuring tiers of stone cut in contrasting shapes that suggest waves lapping at a shore, or maybe the sharp jabs of fate that Pericles faces. (The production will travel to the Folger Theater in Washington and the Guthrie.)