photo: Paul Kolnik
With Cheek By Jowl's different (and far more adventurous) production of Cymbeline still fresh in my mind, it took me a while to accept the straightforward, by-the-numbers approach to the characters in this handsome new production at Lincoln Center. Once I did, I could marvel at Martha Plimpton's dynamic and compelling portrayal of Imogen, the princess who goes into hiding as a boy after aspersions are cast on her, ahem, purity. This production, driven by Plimpton's accessible and exceedingly well-judged performance, gets Shakespeare's story told (and doesn't shy away from the scene with the gods that turns the mood of the play in the second act) but it only sporadically gets his dialogue to sing: there's a chasm that divides the ensemble between those who make it seem like natural speech (Plimpton, John Panko, and John Cullum for example) and those who do not (among them a miscast Phylicia Rashad and Jonathan Cake, who doesn't seem to have been encouraged to have any fun playing Iachimo. He seems to weep most of his line readings, as does Michael Cerveris). I saw an early preview, and it's likely that the ensemble will smooth out with some more time, but Martha Plimpton's performance is already one damned good reason to see this Cymbeline.
Note that Cymbeline is one of a small number of Broadway shows still running during the current stagehands' strike: the others are Xanadu, Pygmalion, Mary Poppins, The 25th Annual Spelling Bee, Maritius, Young Frankenstein, and The Ritz.