Shakespeare's "Cymbeline" a romance for the ages
by Kory Loucks
NEW HAVEN — One of the many pleasures of reviewing college plays such as Yale School of Drama’s production of Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” is the chance to see shows which are seldom seen but worth the effort.
Regarded as one of his romance plays written later in Shakespeare’s illustrious career, “Cymbeline” has many serious elements in it, such as war, kidnapping, death, and deception, that could have easily turned this happy ending play into a tragedy, had the characters made other, less thoughtful choices.
The plot has two recently married lovers, Imogen, the daughter to King Cymbeline, and Posthumus, driven apart by her father. He is influenced by his second Queen (a scheming Miriam A. Hyman), who wants her stepdaughter Imogen to marry her doltish simpleton son, Cloten (a delicious Lucas Dixon.)
Posthumus goes to Italy where he meets a man named Iachimo (a wily Brian Wiles) who says he can corrupt Posthumus’ wife and return with proof of it. Posthumus takes up the challenge, believing his wife is incorruptible.
In the meantime, it is revealed that Imogen (an effervescent Adina Verson) had two older brothers who were kidnapped 20 years ago by the banished Lord Belarius, (an expansive and intense Paul Pryce,) named Guiderius (Joshua Bermudez) and Arviragus (William DeMerritt.)
In addition to all this, Caius Lucius (Jack Moran), a general in the Roman army demands that Cymbeline pay tribute to Rome, which the king refuses to do, and so they go to war.
It’s a lot of plot, with many side issues, such as when the physician Cornelius (Tim Brown) gives the Queen what she thinks is poison, but turns out to be a potion that only imitates death. This is reminiscent of the potion that Juliet takes to feign death in the tragedy “Romeo and Juliet,” except in this case, Imogen thinks the potion is helpful medicine, being given it by the trusted servant, Pisanio, who believes the same.
When Posthumus (a passionate Fisher Neal) is tricked into believing that his wife Imogen has been unfaithful, rather than rashly killing her himself, as Othello does to Desdemona, he sends another, less reliable emissary to do the deed, Pisanio, who is loyal to Imogen.
And when he believes she is dead, Posthumus doesn’t kill himself as Romeo does, but repents and regrets his harsh judgments of his wife.
Cloten seems so childish, with an adult tricycle that pushes the joke a little too far, that when the tide shifts to dismemberment, it comes as a real surprise. In Shakespeare the most gruesome deeds often take place off stage, as is the case in “Cymbeline.”
Ably directed by Louisa Proske, the play is set behind the normal proscenium stage, giving an even more intimate and secret feeling to this unusual play. The period costumes are well made and give grandeur to the elegant regal scenes, and baseness to the forest setting, with costume design by Nikki Delhomme.
The dream scene with projections and the blue sky, along with little Jupiter (darling Rachel Miller) add depth and whimsical fantasy to this fine production.
With just a few props, such as chandeliers for the formal castle, and lowered stage lights for the battle scenes, and a raised backdrop with leaves for the cave, the sets, designed by Meredith B. Ries, communicate clearly the change in settings.
The music is spooky and eerie and moody and contributes to the melodrama, by composer and musician Michael Attias with sound by sound composer Palmer Hefferan.
The play came about during the start of the Comedy of Manners plays around 1608, but unlike others of its ilk, the characters in Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” are all more than one dimensional stereotypes. Even the silly Cloten is brave and valiant, if unsuccessful in his efforts.
I would prefer that the Italians have Italian accents, and the English speak with English accents, instead of all sounding the identical.
The Yale School of Drama’s production of “Cymbeline” takes many twists and turns, but it’s an enjoyable and entertaining ride.
Theater: University Theatre
Location: 222 York St., New Haven
Production: By William Shakespeare. Directed by Louisa Proske. Scenic design by Meredith B. Ries. Costume design by Nikki Delhomme. Lighting design by Solomon Weisbard. Sound Composer Palmer Hefferan. Composer and Musician Michael Attias. Dramaturg Kee-Yoon Nahm. Stage Manager Nicole Marconi.
Running time: 3 hours including a 15-minute intermission
Show times: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. through Dec. 16.
Tickets: $25. For tickets 203-432-1234 or visit their website at drama.yale.edu.
ACTOR ... CHARACTER
Adina Verson … Imogen
Fisher Neal … Posthumus
Brian Wiles … Iachimo
Miriam A. Hyman … The Queen
Robert Grant … Cymbeline
Lucas Dixon … Cloten and others
Paul Pryce … Belarius and others
Joshua Bermudez … Guiderius and others
Tim Brown … Cornelius and others
William DeMeritt … Arviragus and others
Michael Place … Pisano
Jack Moran … Caius Lucius and others
Rachel Miller … Jupiter