Back when I was growing up in Timmins in the '70s, my best friend was Robert Persichini. The actor, who appears as Old Shepherd in the Groundling Theatre Company’s production of A Winter’s Tale, was a bit of a legend in Timmins. He electrified the local theatre community with his star turns as Alfred Doolittle in My Fair Lady and as Tevye in Fiddler On the Roof. Then it was off to RADA to study the Bard.
I recall fondly the two of us imitating Beatrice Arthur in Robert’s living room. She had the best comic timing of any comedian at the time, and Robert picked up on that timing. To say he was one of the funniest actors I ever saw would be an understatement. He was the actor who could always find the humanity and foibles in every character he played.
Over the years, I’ve watched him in productions like Blue Dragons, A Chip In the Sugar, and Necessary Angel’s Hamlet, and he was always the best thing in every show he was in. The stakes are high with A Winter’s Tale. It’s directed by Graham Abbey and also stars such notables as Tom McCamus, Brent Carver, Mark Crawford, Charlie Gallant, Patrick Galligan, Michelle Giroux, and Lucy Peacock. Even with all that star power on stage, my eyes will still mostly be on the Old Shepherd.
A Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare runs Tues, Jan 26 to Sat, Feb 20 at the Coal Mine Theatre, 1454 Danforth Ave. groundlingtheatre.com