CYMBELINE. Written by William Shakespeare; directed by Jim Helsinger. Produced by Colorado Shakespeare Festival (University Theatre, CU campus) through Aug. 5, 2016. Tickets are available at 303-492-8008 or www.coloradoshakes.com.
My first CYMBELINE! I love when I can check another of the Shakespeare catalogue off my bucket list. Given the current production, it’s hard to understand why this script is not produced more often. Director Hilsinger opted to create comic villains and noble heroes, a Queen that looks and acts like Maleficent, and a Princess full of grit. It becomes SHREK, SLEEPING BEAUTY and TANGLE all rolled up in one.
The style of this production seems an homage to storytellers. The company moves on stage, presents themselves to the audience and then settles down to listen to the beginning of the story read from a volume by Pisanio (Rodney Lizcano). When their questions about the story are answered, they rise and begin to act it out. Every character breaks the fourth wall to express their thoughts and their part of the story directly to the audience. In a typically complicated Shakespearean script, the story revolves around the forbidden love of the King’s daughter Imogen (Lindsay Kyler) and her secret commoner husband Posthumus (Steven Cole Hughes). He is banished for his boldness in loving a princess; her virtue is put to the test; the villain Iachima (Geoffrey Kent) lies to win a wager and Imogen flees to the forest to protect her life from her angry father (John Hutton). There are long-lost sons, clumsy clowns, poisonous potions, Roman soldiers, girls disguised as boys and a hodgepodge of the Bard’s favorite plot devices to complete the story in a strangely satisfactory manner.
John Hutton is in turns royal, forceful, and penitent as King Cymbeline. Lindsay Kyler as Imogen fiercely defends her honor, dresses like a boy (like Superman, add a hat and tights and we’re not supposed to notice she’s a girl) and fights in the battle on the side of the Romans against her father. Sean Scrutchins adds a new clown to the Shakespeare cast of characters in playing Cloten, the Queen’s son who wants to marry Imogen so he can become king, as the clone of Prince Farquhar (from SHREK) who bumbles his way toward an untimely demise. Appropriately rugged and handsome Benaiah Anderson and Christopher Joel Onken play the two long-lost king’s sons raised in the forest by Belarius (Howard Swain). Anne Pennar brings a touch of evil to the Queen. Rodney Lizcano continues his successful summer’s work in the role of Pisanio, the faithful servant to both Imogen and her father.
The central two-story balcony unit designed by Stephen C. Jones is re-used in this production dressed with vines to represent the forest. The subtle homage to the footprint of the original Globe Theatre is appreciated. The clever light design by Jones also adds to the drama or humor of a scene. The costumes by Clare Henkel establish at a glance who the characters are: black and red for the wicked Queen, white for the Princess, burgundy for the King, and earth colors for the soldiers, servants and forest dwellers. Geoffrey Kent pulls double duty by playing the overconfident playboy Iachino and choreographing the brilliant fight scene between the King’s men and the advancing Roman legions. The battle at high pitch would suddenly move into slow motion to show how various characters were wounded or allowed to live. With the smoke, mist and realistic battle sounds, it became similar to a scene in a movie, so well was it choreographed.
Another WOW factor of 9 for the Shakes this summer!