Outdoors on the Elizabethan Stage Shakespeare's "Cymbeline" is a beautiful production directed by James Edmondson. It's loaded with symbolism and lavishly ritualistic. We have a Druid symbol at the center of everything. This circular symbol is repeated in multiples for the banners framing the stage, the ornate carving of various posts, and tables, and the base of the silver bowl at center stage.
As the play starts a giant flame and smoke shoots up from the bowl as the entire cast assembles as a chorus in a solemn invocation, giving way to Cymbeline's throne. We are ushered into the world, part Druid, part Roman as Britain is being transformed from cave dwelling hunters during the reign of Caesar Augustus. Todd Barton's music and processions of standard bearers, never let us stray far from the spirituality of the play. The costumes and manners are of this period as much as any other. We have the robes and symbols of Cymbeline and his court. The Roman breast plates of Iachimo, Caius Lucius, and the Roman court, and the lost brothers in the skins of animals they had killed.
Ray Porter is the villainous Iachimo who actually draws hisses from the audience as he steals the bracelet from Imogen's wrist and writes down the details of her room to trick Leonatus and win his bet. Jodi Somers is a beautifully sweet Imogen. All of the men in the play are in love with her in a variety of ways , and it's easy to see why. She's virtuous and faithful, radiant, and determined. Jonathan Adams' Leonatus is passionate and sure of the love he shares with Imogen. Then he thinks she has betrayed him and she has been killed at his command, he raves in sorrow. His loyalty to her and England overcomes everything though, and he is a dominant force as he turns on the Romans when they invade. The battle scene is tremendous as the stage is flooded with white and blue light. The forces enter to do battle from all directions. We have slow motion and stop action as various characters insert themselves into the action. The special effects reach their peak with the appearance of the spirits of Leonatus' parents as they rise to the balcony which is then filled by Jupiter on his eagle.
"Cymbeline" is rich in comedy with Aldo Billingslea's Cloten. He's big and strong and dumb as a post. His mother, the evil Queen, is constantly scheming to gain the throne for him, and one shudders at the thought. He's like Siegfried with a fraction of the brain and a speech impediment that betrays him at the worst times, like when he's trying to intimidate someone, or woo Imogen. One of the funniest scenes is when he encounters the lost brothers, not exactly seriousness and drama themselves. They are only a step removed from the animals whose skins they dress in. I have never laughed as much at a head being served upon a platter, as when Polydore brings Cloten's in and Cadwal bends down to inspect it in infinite detail. "Cymbeline" is a play of love and betrayal, reunion and forgiveness with one of the most satisfying conclusions in all of literature.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival 98
Henry IV Pt.1
| Comedy of Errors
| Measure for Measure
| Touch of the Poet
| Sailing to Byzantium
Midsummer Night's Dream | School for Scandal | Uncle Vanya | OSF Commentary