October 26, 2012
Theatre Review: Shakespeare's Cymbeline at A Noise Within
Mix together in a blender a whole bunch of Shakespeare plays (Othello, Romeo and Juliet and a couple of the cross-dressing comedies) with a dash of fairy tale (wicked stepmother, idyllic forest setting and sleeping potion) and you end up with one of Shakespeare's less widely-known plays, Cymbeline.
I'd never read or seen Cymbeline before attending last night's performance at A Noise Within, and was expecting something dry and forgettable. To my surprise, it was actually a very colorful and engrossing play, full of laughs and quintessentially Shakespearean plot twists. I suspect this particular staging and its charismatic players helped take The Bard's romance from good to great. Especially memorable were two of the laugh-out-loud villains, Iachimo (played by Andrew Elvis Miller) and Cloten (played by Adam Haas Hunter). The costumes were stunning, and the various wigs on stage were practically characters unto themselves.
Since I rather enjoyed the show, I left wondering why we so rarely see it performed on stage or film. I think the fault is with the play itself. It's too derivative of Shakespeare's other works, comes to a ridiculously happy conclusion (which, granted, many of his plays do, but this one o'erleapt all suspension of disbelief), and frankly feels like something the Bard was kind of "phoning in" toward the end of his career. Nevertheless, even an okay Shakespeare play is a great play in my estimation, and when performed with the showmanship of a great repertory theater, it doesn't disappoint.
For comparison, I'm eager to check out the BBC film version from the 1980s starring Helen Mirren as the young heroine, Imogen and Robert Lindsay as the troublemaking Iachimo.