Cymbeline Review at The New York Times
“Cymbeline” may be nobody’s favorite Shakespeare play, but Fiasco Theater is making it awfully lovable in a spunky production at Access Theater.
The cast members are all alumni of the Brown University/Trinity Rep graduate theater program, and frugality must be a big part of the curriculum there because six actors play all the parts. Also, but for a versatile trunk and a few doodads, the stage is bare.
Like other Shakespeare plays, “Cymbeline” seems constructed for this kind of streamlined production, the roles written so that actors can play several without things growing clumsy. Here the role switching is effortless, but that doesn’t mean that this troupe is above getting some laughs out of it.
And laughs are what this production is about. “Cymbeline” is a troublesome play in that it doesn’t have enough depth to be a drama but doesn’t quite signal its humorous intent the way other Shakespeare plays do; for one thing, it includes a stark death by sword fight. But it is a measure of Fiasco’s confidence that the troupe turns this potentially awkward moment into one of the production’s most dazzling.
The plot seems patched together from better-known Shakespeare: it has parted lovers, mistaken identity, a sleeping potion, a woman who disguises herself as a man and so on. Imogen (Jessie Austrian), daughter of the British king, Cymbeline (Andy Grotelueschen), is in love with Posthumus (Noah Brody), but parental disapproval separates them. Posthumus is exiled to Italy, and setting things right again requires a trusty servant (Paul L. Coffey), all sorts of plot complications and, here, a surprisingly effective trip to Appalachia (with appropriate music).
Everyone in this cast is solid, but Mr. Grotelueschen (who plays two other roles besides the king) and Ben Steinfeld and Emily Young (in various pivotal secondary roles) are especially entertaining, showing great timing and skill with the language. Mr. Steinfeld and Mr. Brody jointly directed, and it’s not until the play is over that you realize how good their pacing was: everything builds expertly to a smashing final 15 minutes.