William Shakespeare was a shape-shifter whose late play “The Winter’s Tale” segues in three hours from tragic error to comic resolution. The show combines a grim trajectory like Othello’s with a pastoral charm all its own, as directed by Michael Greif and designed by Mark Wendland, whose great arched window pivots up and down to mark movements in the action.
A strong cast — including Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Linda Emond and the marvelous Marianne Jean-Baptiste — enacts this story of a jealous king, abandoned baby and faithful nobleman eaten by a bear. Lake Simons sprinkles the action with assorted puppets that share the stunning vista with real-world hawks and helicopters. A dozen trapdoors in the round, dark Delacorte stage allow for instantaneous eruptions of comedy and magical events. Realistic thunderstorms crackle and flash.
Ghosts walk, a pickpocket (the slightly seedy but very funny Hamish Linklater) thrives and issues of class and noble birth threaten to divide young lovers — but time heals wounds and brings angry kings to their senses. A strong feminist streak propels Jean-Baptiste as Paulina to keep a 16-year vigil, long enough for the abandoned child to grow into a beautiful shepherdess and for royal wrath to mellow into calm.
Does this sound bewildering? It’s a wild ride, but all comes clear as the scene shifts from Sicilia to the coast of Bohemia and back again — and from winter to spring. “The Winter’s Tale” plays on July nights in Central Park in repertory with “The Merchant of Venice.”
If you go
‘The Winter’s Tale’
Through August 1