Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cymbeline--Words for Its Final Four Days

Three Reasons to Go See One of Shakespeare's Least Liked Plays

There are four days left to see Cymbeline, the second offering of The Public's annual Free Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater. This flawed production (see Cameron Kelsall's excellent July review here) is worth seeing if you can get tickets (learn how to get tickets here).

In the mid-August production I saw Lily Rabe (Imogen) was radiant, a fact I mention because some reviews dismissed her performance, calling her too "bitter" or that she "doesn't quite find access to the character’s radiant innocence and the pathos of her long suffering." Perhaps she grew into the role, but that night she gave a nuanced, rich interpretation of a character who changes drastically through the play, from a sweet innocent to a betrayed lover to an anguished mourner. Plus, her resonant, opulent voice is perfect for Shakespeare. Heck, it's fantastic for reading the phone book, too.

The other highlight of the show is Kate Burton as the Queen and the evil stepmother to Imogen. She brings the snarky out in a dark character who likes to play with poisons. Plus, she wears the show's only decent costume, a big, pitch-black hoop-skirted confection that makes you understand what Cymbeline, the King of Britain (Patrick Page, who also is solid in his role) sees in her. Like many of the actors, she plays a second character. Her Belarius, a banished lord from court, is not as compelling as the queen, but she does bring an emotional center to this rough-hewn back hills poser who, on one hand, fiercely loves the two boys she stole from the king and raised, and yet is someone who seethes with an underlying bitterness.

The original music by Tony Award-winner, Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, If/Then) strengthens the potency of some of the passages, allowing sweet or sorrowful notes to linger in the night air.

The final show in the Shakespeare in the Park series, The Odyssey, runs September 4-7 and will unite onstage professional actors with regular New Yorkers.

Photo credit: Carol Rosegg 

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