Theater Review: “Cymbeline”
“Cymbeline.” Photo Credit: David White/Richmond Shakespeare.
As far as idyllic settings go, there is no better place to watch Shakespeare than at Agecroft Hall in Windsor Farms. Staged outside in the courtyard of the beautiful Tudor manor, “Cymbeline” is the first offering of the 2012 Summer Richmond Shakespeare Festival and is being directed by Tlaloc Rivas.
Richmond Shakespeare’s production features a cast of eight actors with musician, Matt Treacy, on stage to punctuate scenes and provide suspenseful, background music. “Cymbeline” is what you would expect of Shakespeare in many ways. There’s deception, mistaken identity, sleeping potions, evil villains, murder, and of course, some sword-play. King Cymbeline, played by Alan Sader, is ruler of Britain during the time of Augustus Caesar. As the center point of the play, Cymbeline faces several challenges during our time with him: a conniving Queen (played by Alana Smith), a head-strong, hopeless romantic, daughter Imogen (played brilliantly by Elisabeth Ashby), a bratty, entitled step-son Cloten (played by LeSean Greene), and all the while a war is being waged against his crown.
Sader is wonderful as Cymbeline, his booming voice and imposing presence perfectly portray the troubled, British King. Cymbeline has three children, and aside from daughter Imogen he has two sons: Guideriuis and Arviragus, played respectively by Justin Ahdoot and Bryan Lamorena, who were kidnapped in infancy by banished lord Belarius, played by Timothy Gettemy.
Adhoot and Lamorena each play at least two characters in this production, with Adhoot also playing Pisanio, loyal servant to Imogen. Adhoot and Lamorena have great chemistry together on stage and each scene they are in is fun to watch and visually exciting.
Cymbeline’s daughter, Imogen is married to Posthumus, played by Ryan Bechard who is hard to take your eyes off as he delivers several inspired monologues throughout the two-act play. Bechard, at one point, comes into the audience, while feigning drunkiness and making amazing eye contact he pines over his bride, whom he has come to believe has been unfaithful to him. Posthumus is also troubled by the fact that King Cymbeline does not approve of his daughter’s choice in husband and has forbidden Imogen to see him.
This is the second production I have seen Ashby in and I find her to be a very talented Shakespearian actress, with a naturalness and effortless to her delivery. The villains in this play are both played by LaSean Greene, playing step-son to the King Cloten who is determined to woo heir to the throne, Imogen, much to her dismay, and evil Italian traveler, Iachimo, who puts in motion an event that changes the course of Imogen’s life and marriage with Posthumus.
All of the characters play several parts throughout and change sets and costumes all in front of the audience. The stage was set up in a creative way with several chairs lining the back of the stage where the actors would sit while not in a scene, almost becoming a part of the audience. The costumes were period appropriate, however a little unimpressive and sloppy at times. In one scene, Imogen is supposed to be in a light nightgown in bed (there is a reason this is important to the story-line) under which Ashby is obviously wearing a shirt and pants, making what happens in the plot after she falls asleep a little unbelievable.
And as all the actors are playing several parts I feel it would have been better to delineate a little more between the costume changes and character changes.
“Cymbeline” runs through July 1 at Agecroft Hall. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.richmondshakespeare.com
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
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