Time Out Theater Review
Fiasco Theater has dived into the tricky, genre-bending Shakespeare romance “Cymbeline” with pluck and good humor. Time Out New York contributing critic David Cote filed the following review.
Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” is hard to do straight. This motley tale of tragedy, comedy and pastoral whimsy can stump the best classical actors and confound the most loyal Bard fanatics. So hats off to young and frisky Fiasco Theater, which dives into this tricky genre-bending late romance with pluck and good humor.
On a spare set populated by two boxes, a single sheet and a large, versatile trunk, six actors whirl about donning and doffing costume pieces and roles with cheeky abandon.
The story of “Cymbeline” is a loopy fairy tale, complete with a wicked stepmother, poison and a decapitated body mistaken for the hero.
Shakespeare seemed to be reworking thematic material from previous works: sexual jealousy in “Othello;” tension between father and daughters from “King Lear;” and cross-dressing from early comedies.
The Fiasco production takes these wild tone shifts in stride, winking at the audience but mostly keeping it wide-eyed earnest.
The level of the acting and crispness of diction may vary, but the performances are lucid, energetic and imbued with genuine warmth.
Jessie Austrian makes for a wholesome and radiant Imogen; Ben Steinfeld oozes oily cynicism as Iachimo; and Noah Brody is a stalwart if rather stiff Posthumus. Paul L. Coffey takes on four or five different supporting roles with grace as well.
In case you thought juggling multiple roles wasn’t enough, the talented ensemble punctuates the action with songs ranging from Italian madrigals to Appalachian folk.
Fiasco Theater’s cheerful bare-bones approach could lapse into twee collegiate cutesiness, but it has a disarming effect: making you forget, or at least not care, what a silly play “Cymbeline” is.