Cymbeline: Endless Pleasure, No Guilt!
Admit it: I just saw Fiasco’s Cymbeline twice, two nights in a row. And time did not wither, nor custom stale it the second time around; rather, I anticipated certain moments,and simply luxuriated in their charms.
A good thing it was, too, because the very first time I saw Cymbeline it was at a local big venue, with a very big cast, and a director whose work I have always admired. But none of the skill of its production could disguise that fact that it’s just not a very good play. Press notes at the time described it as a “Romance, combining comedy, tragedy and history….an epic tale of power and magic…its action sweeping across Britain and Italy as two warring powers clash, until its eventual joyful conclusion.” In other words, a play that couldn’t decide what it wanted to be when it grew up.
Fiasco, however, has magicked it into something small and very wonderful, shrinking a cast of twenty-six into a handful of smart and agile players who are not afraid of being silly for the fun of it, or of turning on a dime and digging into the best lines until you cry. They know their stuff well enough to know when to bend the rules, can play seven instruments at just the right instant to heighten a mood, and enact multiple roles with a minimum of props and accessories. Then there’s the Fabulous Trunk (by Jacques Roy) which doubles as a receptacle, a bed, a passageway, or whatever the moment calls for.
This Cymbeline’s spontaneity is, of course, the result of years of stubborn collaboration between six Brown M.F.A. graduates overcoming doubts, other jobs, and uncertain finances in order to return to it three times before embarking on the Barrow Street Theatre version. This time, trailing very big reviews and adding several producers to ensure a longer run. If you love inventive theater and the cheeky confidence of a cast that knows you’re in very good hands for the evening, Cymbeline is what to see!
P.S. Jessie Austrian and Noah Brody, Cymbeline’s star-crossed but ultimately triumphant lovers, plan to marry in October. Note to Fiasco: why not try All’s Well That Ends Well next time? For now, go see cymbeline!