Austrian and Brody
If you stroll the famous sidewalks of Times Square, you will see billboards advertising the ultra-hyped Spiderman: Turn off the Dark. You won’t see an advertisement for Cymbeline, because It sounds like something one might see on YouTube: Six young actors fresh out of Brown University taking, attempting to effectively perform a play that holds the toughest ending in Shakespeare (17 unknown facts or problems are revealed AND resolved in 15 minutes!). There is no way they could possibly pull it off with so few actors, a blank stage, no effects, and no backstage, right? Yet this troupe did more than pull it off. They blew me away.
Brody attacking Steinfeld
No one ever left the stage, but merely sat around the small when their character was not present. The small, barren, stage Some actors had as many as four parts. The play, though cut, was incredible. To have few actors fill in for many parts is very tough.
The parts are varied in Cymbeline, so it takes mental and physical versatility. But this was no problem for these actors. Between them, they could play the cello, French horn, horn, ukulele, guitar, drums, bongo. They could also all sing a capella in styles from madrigals to bluegrass. These talents helped overcome the challenge of make an obscure play into something people will pay to see, because it needs to be exceptionally eye-catching. To make something that is unpopular successful, it must stand out so profusely, it cannot be passed by. Otherwise its existence becomes that of a shadow, seen by few, and finally the production halts.
Cymbeline is a play which starts of beautifully and slowly for four acts. It starts with two lovers, Imogen (Jesse Austrian), a princess and a commoner, Posthumus (Noah Brody), and then develops into a beautiful but twisted love plot. Pothumus is forced to flee to Italy, where he meets the villain Iachimo (Ben Steinfeld), who tears a hole in the relationship with false words and falser actions. Then when a war ensues between Italy and England, the audience meets two young boys and their father, who happen to be the kidnapped heirs to the throne of Britain. Also the king’s evil queen (Emily Young) sends her moronic son, Cloten (Andy Grotelueschen), to kill Imogen. Paul L. Coffey, playing Imogen’s faithful servant, is also entangled. So then in the fifth act they are all brought to Cymbeline’s court (except Cloten, who was killed by one of the lost sons) and Shakespeare resolves all the separate but tangled plots at once.
(Top) Steinfeld, Grotelueschen, Coffey (Bottom) Young, Brody, Austrian
The ending truly is what makes Cymbeline a monster. In the fifth act, it explodes into a rapidly unfolding bundle of twists and turns. Having started slow, every problem Shakespeare created is resolved in the space of twenty minutes. Almost every character appears at least once in the finale. 17 new ideas or facts are revealed in ten minutes. This posed a huge problem for the Fiasco Company. I wondered throughout the entire play how they would play ten parts with six people. They dealt with it in a brilliant way; simply switching! Instead of trying to hide the role changes, beating a drum to signaled the switch. They did not stay fixated on little issues, and neither did the audience. It is very reassuring to see Shakespeare performed by a small cast. The numerous roles pose problems for many companies. This style of performance will make it much easier to adapt Shakespeare the modern world. This new way to deal with a problem play will be revolutionary, and I hope to review some more on this quest.