What a fun hodge-podge Cymbeline is! I’m reasonably sure this production at the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse is the first I’ve seen, but I don’t know why it’s infrequently done. It has kind of a goofy ending, but otherwise it’s fun and fast-paced, it has sword fights and love scenes and comic speeches and one pretty terrific soliloquy. What’s not to like?
Posthumus, Imogen’s husband is banished; the evil Iachomo wagers that he can seduce Imogen and tricks Posthumus into believing he has succeeded, whereupon Posthumus dispatches Pisanio to kill Imogen and they happen to choose the vicinity where Belarius lives with his two “sons,” the very kidnapped boys of Cymbeline, King of Britain and Imogen’s father; and meanwhile Cymbeline is at war with Rome for having spurned the Empire, and Cymbeline’s second wife, the Queen, has sent her son Cloten to vanquish Imogen and kill Posthumus.
There are no real weak spots in this production, however silly the play itself. Alyssa Wilmoth is fantastic as Imogen and Gregory Jon Phelps does a wonderful job as Posthumus. James Keegan is once again a standout, here as Belarius. Benjamin Curns is a riot as the buffoon, Cloten, and Rick Blunt makes a fine Pisanio. Two stalwarts of the company are here, too, and both are powerful in their roles: David Loar as Cymbeline and John Harrell as Iachomo.
The Playhouse was nearly full last night, and the crowd saw a terrific performance.