Fiasco Theater renews our fondness for this Shakespearean farrago.
Fri Jan 21 2011
Photographs: Gerry Goodstein
PEEPING TOM Steinfeld, left, spies on a sleeping Austrian.
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
First, let us imagine that the entirely barmy romance Cymbeline is not by Shakespeare. We'll feel so much better admitting that it is just one giant plot hole, shoveled full with coincidence, reversed identities and two identifying facial moles—a high average even for Elizabethans. Now, our genius filter set firmly aside, we can notice what is charming (and even efficient) about this dramaturgical gumbo: It both is and describes folly. Every character strenuously resists making a single good decision, perfect fodder for the young actor not yet ready to play Lear's storm scene.
Five minutes into the jam-packed exposition, we know that mad king Cymbeline (Andy Grotelueschen) has just soured on his daughter Imogen (an excellent Jessie Austrian) and her new husband, Posthumus (Noah Brody). Posthumus flees, leaving behind loyal valet Pisanio (Paul L. Coffey) and poor Imogen—now vulnerable to a wicked stepmother (Emily Young), a cloddish rival (Grotelueschen in a deft comic turn) and a nefarious Italian (the superb, snaky Ben Steinfeld).
Codirectors Steinfeld and Brody exploit poor-theater stylings (off-duty actors watch from the sidelines, much is created from a sheet and acting cubes) to often hilarious effect, and the players' habit of bursting into lovely song makes the stage seem richly furnished. In a tiny cast, every flaw stands out starkly, and while Brody codirects capably, he hits several false notes as our weather-vane hero. But if you're on the fence about loving this high-spirited show, just watch the faces of its company. Clearly, the members of Fiasco Theater still surprise one another, and their palpable, easy delight is a surging tide to raise all boats.
New Victory Theater. By William Shakespeare. Dirs. Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld. With ensemble cast. 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.