Monday, October 1, 2012

Shakespeare, et al? Cymbeline at ANW


 (l-r) Jarrett Sleeper (Guiderius) and Adam Haas Hunter(Cloten) Photo by Craig Schwartz

The story of Cymbeline as retold by A Noise Within in its season opener brings good news and bad news.  The good news is that Pasadena’s Classic Theatre Company kicks off its season with nowhere else to go but up.  The bad news follows: Director Bart DeLorenzo presents the conceit that Will himself may have taken, it’s just a play. The stage is set with an ancient work light in anticipation of the curtain’s rise.  Various props from other of Shakespeare’s plays are strewn on the steps to the stage itself.  The show begins with a flourish as we quickly are given glimpses of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello and others of The Bard’s more familiar stories. It is as though with Cymbeline Shakespeare just tossed them all into a hat, pulling them out with a little narration:  a story of a girl pretending to be a boy, an old man played by a woman (for reasons that escape me) and a panoply of characters who strut and bellow… a lot.

When at the intermission (of the two and a half hour evening) one over hears a member of the audience declare that the scene changes are very smooth, it’s a sign of something missing.  What’s missing here is a company of players who are all on the same page.  Of them all, veteran actor Time Winters as Pisanio and Gaoler screws his courage to any sticking point as best he can and with decent mastery of the language he brings his characters to life.

Adam Haas Hunter plays the handsome swain Posthumus as well as the boorish fop,  Cloten.  Cleverly, at rise, both are on the stage at the same time while narrators in evening suits set up the story. King Cymbeline (Joel Swetow) sorely needs his daughter, Imogen, (Helen Sadler), to marry well, but she’s already married to a commoner, Posthumus.  Although Posthumus is uncommonly an okay guy and really in love with Imogen, he gets banished right off the bat only to return to the stage as  the wicked Queen’s (Francia DiMase who also plays Belarius) favored suitor, her son, the foppish Cloten (Hunter).  So, now we have an evil queen and poison that is switched by a suspecting chemist for an elixir that only makes one appear to be dead, a banished good guy, intrigue and mixed up messages delivered by a trusty servant.  Where have we heard that one before, Will?  I have a faint cold chill.

The up side is that there is one terrific scene with swordplay choreographed by Ken Merckx.  There’s a beheading, too. But, other than that, not only is the story disappointing, predictable and long, but the uneven performances and inability of DeLorenzo to keep his actors suiting the action to the word and the word to the action unhappily makes this production feel like a marginally interesting Masters Degree Thesis Project.  

Angela Balogh Calin’s costumes are perfect.  Sets and lighting by Keith Mitchell and Ken Booth, respectively, are just fine. 

And, the scene changes are executed very well . 

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Bart DeLorenzo
A Noise Within
3352 E. Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
Tickets $40 -$50.00 Group rates available
626 356 3100
Through November 18, 2012


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