theater (reviews)

review: cymbeline

Cymbeline

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Noah Brody & Ben Steinfeld
Featuring Jessie Austrian, Noah Brody, Paul L. Coffey, Andy  Grotelueschen, Ben Steinfeld, Emily Young
Fiasco Theater at Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow Street
September 8, 2011 — January 15, 2012 [extended]
production web site and company web site

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
December 18, 2011

(L-R) Ben Steinfeld and Noah Brody. Photo by Gerry Goodstein.

This Cymbeline production that shares developmental credit with Theatre for a New Audience (where it lived for a while earlier this year), has enjoyed rapturous reviews throughout its run yesterday announced a new several-week extension. (I deeply appreciation Ben Brantley‘s observation that the plagued-with-delayed-opening Spider-man Turn Off The Dark could learn some things from its lean-and-mean then-neighbor.) Vaudeville, madrigals, magic acts, and sleight of hand frame and animate Shakespeare’s prologue and script.  This collaborative troupe — there are two directors with expertise in fight direction and music and multiple artistic directors and six actors playing at least three times that many roles — provide wonder and merriment.  Part adventure story, part wicked stepmother, part wise wood creatures, part Twelfth Night‘s twins and Much Ado About Nothing‘s sexual libel and hints of still more. Fiasco Theater has cut to the bare bones of story and with clarity and movement and dance and delightful vocal and instrumental music of several genres tells a series of stories that resolve with love and hope.

My audience at the Barrow Street Theatre is composed of all ages and sprinkled with veteran theatre-goers chattering happily, before curtain, not of The Lion King but of the newest hottest Off Broadway creation Once.  The feel and sound of this Cymbeline evokes 1968’s The Lion in Winter (madrigals and charm and spare medieval royalty) and 2000’s Songcatcher (Appalachian mountain harmonies).  Movement and set pieces pared to their essence.  While these six actors, one and all, deserve individual mention (see listing above) and most take on multiple roles, this is ensemble theatre at its finest.  Perhaps the most appropriate individual program credit to highlight is the one for Jacques Roy, the designer of the “Fabulous Trunk” with multiple purposes (bed, toilet, pool table, stage, coffin, and more) — you start listing the uses, amazed, despite yourself.  And you will smile and cry a little and cheer the possibilities of the trunk and the entire production along with everyone else.  Fiasco Theater, I am so happy to have found you.

© Martha Wade Steketee (December 20, 2011)

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