|Hamish Linkletter and Lily Rabe. Photo: Carol Rosegg.|
Methinks Hamish Linklater Portrays a Cloten Who Won’t Soon Be Forgotten
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.
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.
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