Monday, November 23, 2009

Fiasco Theater's Cymbeline

Access Theater was not easy to get to. Located south of Canal Street, and not in the usual theater neighborhoods, it perched at the top of eight flights of steps. You might also mistake the other small theater on the same floor for it, as I did, since there were no signs except for xeroxed posters of Fiasco Theater's production of Cymbeline.

But access is not just a matter of geography, of course; it is also emotion and physicality. The last two Fiasco Theater had in spades in their exhilarating performance. No fancy stage sets or props to hide behind.  Just 6 actors and a trunk. With tremendous joyful energy, they pumped Shakespeare's late romance for all its poetry, comedy, melodrama and, yes, tragedy. The scene in which Belaria and the boys mourned over the supposedly dead Imogen was heart-breaking. The pathos turned abruptly, magically, into silliness when Imogen revived and touched the headless Cloten. Instead of smoothing out the play's mixture of genres, this production played up the clash of styles in a very intelligent manner.

It worked also because the cast was uniformly talented. Jessie Austrian was a convincingly tragic Imogen: girlish and all liquid gold. Noah Brody was a touch self-conscious but he had a great voice which he put to poetic effect in Posthumus' denunciatory speeches. Ben Steinfeld was a lovable Iachimo and Arviragus. Emily Young, who also played Frenchman and Belaria, was a funny Queen. Her son Cloten was played by Andy Grotelueschen, who switched easily to playing Cymbeline and Cornelius the doctor; he was a very good clown. Paul L. Coffey played Pisanio, Philario, Caius Lucius and Guiderius. Coffey stood out among the cast for his restraint. There was a deep interiority in this actor that made me want to see him again.

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