Shakespeare's Obscure 'Cymbeline' Gets A Superb Production
There are two primary reasons Shakespeare lovers should go see the new production of Cymbeline at A Noise Within. The first is that the play is rarely produced, and here's an opportunity to experience it as done by one of the best classics-based theatre companies in town. The second reason is that one will rarely see this play so well performed. Director Bart DeLorenzo and an outstanding cast take this obscurity by the Bard and bring it to witty and boisterous life.
Princess Imogen (Helen Sadler) has secretly married Posthumus (Adam Haas Hunter) for love, although she was supposed to marry her mother-in-law's boorish son Cloten (Hunter). When her father, the British king Cymbeline (Joel Swetow), discovers this, he has Posthumus banished. The unlucky lad ends up in Rome, where vain nobleman Iachimo (Andrew Elvis Miller) engages him in a bet as to Imogen's faithfulness. Through treachery, Iachimo falsely convinces Posthumus of Imogen's infidelity, and the furious Posthumus sends a letter to his henchman in England to have her killed. The henchman, however, takes the wronged Imogen's side, and sends her, dressed as a young man, to find him in Rome and clear her name. Then war breaks out, and the smaller drama is dragged into a larger conflict.
Sadler excels as the plucky princess, taking what is generally a straight man role to other more comical characters and getting steady laughs from her reactions to the ever-increasing craziness. Hunter brings inspired buffoonery to the egotistical and deluded Cloten in a thoroughly delightful turn, and further impresses by playing Posthumus totally dramatic, charting his emotional journey as he makes a terrible decision and tries valiantly to make amends.
Miller is fine as the villainous Iachimo, but his performance feels a bit muted, as if it's not entirely there yet. Swetow makes an appropriately regal Cymbeline, particularly at the play's redemptive conclusion, and Francia DiMase does terrific double duty as the Queen and a hidden nobleman. Finally, Jarrett Sleeper and Paul David Story are both notable as two mysterious young wild men, and Time Winters brings a sense of virtuous duty as henchman Pisanio.
DeLorenzo stages the show at a sprightly pace, both trimming the text and literally having one scene start before another has fully left the stage, and this benefits the production enormously. He also focuses on the comedic aspects of the play, which helps it get past some fairly dark stuff in the middle without ignoring the underlying seriousness. Keith Mitchell's set is spare yet effective, but John Ballinger's music seems unnecessarily generic. Angela Balogh Calin's costumes are memorably strong, from Iachimo's leather getup to the hilarious garishness of Cloten's ensemble, a wrongness of silk and ruffles.
So, in conclusion, Cymbeline: Go because you should, stay because it's good.
"Cymbeline" plays at A Noise Within through November 18. Tickets are available online.