Monday, August 17, 2015

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Cymbeline in the Park

Hamish Linkletter and Lily Rabe. Photo: Carol Rosegg.

Methinks Hamish Linklater Portrays a Cloten Who Won’t Soon Be Forgotten
By Lauren Yarger
With Cymbeline, The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park series and Director Daniel Sullivan have proved that if you have the people on board, even a really dumb play can be entertaining.
Hamish Linklater is delightful in the dual roles of arrogant prince Cloten and poor Posthumus Leonatus, both romantically entangled with fair Imogen (a superb Lily Rabe) in a Britain ruled by King Cymbeline (Patrick Page).

Linklater’s portrayals are so different and Cloten’s personality so ridiculous and different from Posthumous, that I had to check my program to confirm that the same actor was playing the roles – in spite of a delightful prologue introduction that confirmed the doubling, including a heads up that talented  Kate Burton (TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal”) would be portraying both Cymbeline’s queen (the mother of Cloten) as well as Bellarius, a banished traitor who stole Cymbeline’s infant sons. Normally, I am not a fan of gender changes on stage, but Burton’s abilities are not to be missed here.

When Imogen spurns her intended, Cloten (who could as easily have been named Clod….), and secretly marries Posthumous, Cymbeline banishes the young groom to Rome. There he meets the treacherous Iachimo (a charming Raúl Esparza) who conspires to con Posthumous out of a valuable ring by convincing him that he has been intimate with Imogen.

Let’s just say that this isn’t one of my favorites of Shakespeare’s plays (the last one I saw at least had my favorite actor John Cullum in the role of Cymbeline, and he was the best thing about that disappointing production). There are other plots involving Imogen traveling -- in disguise as a boy -- with Bellarius and his two charges, an attempt by the queen to poison Imogen and Cymbeline, an attempt to collect taxes, mistaken identities, beheaded corpses and more. The second act wraps up suddenly, as though the playwright, being pressed for time, suddenly decides to add a bunch of explanations to tie up loose ends.

But this production is well worth the time (about three hours). Methinks Linklater’s Cloten will not soon be forgotten, to put it in verse, which seems appropriate. Rabe is riveting and Burton plays the heck out of both roles, getting laughs with just a facial expression. Typical of productions in the park, the set is glorious (designed by Riccardo Hernandez) with Central Park looming in the background and this one has original music by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal, If/Then). Esparza entertains with a “Mac the Knife” sounding gig that is a hoot.

I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud at Shakespeare. Thank you Daniel Sullivan for not taking Cymbeline too seriously and for letting the actors do their best work. Performances by supporting actors are strong all around as well.

Standing in the long line for free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park is worth it for this one. Get thee to the theater!

Cymbeline plays through Aug. 23 at the Delacorte Theatre, Central Park, NYC (The Delcaorte Theater is accessible by entering at 81st  Street and Central Park West, or 79th  Street and Fifth Avenue) Performances are Monday through Saturday at 8 pm. Added performance Sunday, Aug. 23 at 8 pm: Tickets are free at the box office or via online lottery at www.publictheater.org. More info: (212) 539-8734.

Additional cast:
David Furr…. Guiderius, First Lord
Jacob Ming-Trent…. Arviragus, First Gentleman
Patrick Page …. Cymbeline
Steven Skybell…. Pisanio, Gaoler, Frenchman
Emma Duncan, Tim Nicolai, and David Ryan Smith, Ensemble.

Christians might also like to know:
-- No content notes. enjoy.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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