Opening with an incestuous father-daughter pair and featuring an extended sequence set in a brothel, Shakespeare’s bizarre romance offers a tutorial on the varieties of bad governance. Mary Zimmerman’s sumptuous production, originally staged in Washington, DC (!) and currently at the Goodman, smooths out the play’s roughness, rendering it as digestible as possible. The staging has the visual sophistication and wit of a first-rate commercial, as when a silent actor crosses a grain-filled stage before delivering the notable direction, “Enter pirates.” In “Pericles,” Shakespeare gives us two improbably happy reunion scenes: the wandering king discovers first his long-lost daughter and then his wife, resurrected as a priestess of Diana. The interplay between Pericles (Ryan Artzberger) and Marina (Marguerite Stimpson), as the shattered king emerges from his mourning robe to recognize his daughter, is sublime, highlighting the echoes of the more famous recognition scene in “Lear.” Artzberger plays Pericles throughout as a victim of circumstances, a man more acted on than acting, which paradoxically makes his response to his final good fortune all the more affecting. The supporting cast, particularly Craig Spidle’s noble Halicarnus, and Dan Ostling’s Vermeerish set, appropriately lit by T. J. Gerckens, provide able backing for the hapless king’s peregrinations. (John Beer)
Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, (312)443-3800. Thu 2pm & 7:30pm/ Fri 8pm/ Sat 2pm & 8pm/ Sun 2pm & 7:30pm. $35-$65. Through Feb 19.