With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramaturgy/Dramatic Criticism, Alyssa Dyksterhouse has over 20 years of professional theater experience. She recently returned from the living in the Pacific Northwest where she wrote about arts and culture for Seattle Weekly and Seattle Gay Scene.
(l -r) Terry Bell and Martel Manning. Photo by Tom McGrath/TCMcGPhotography
Review: CYMBELINE at Strawdog Theatre Company
By Alyssa Dyksterhouse
Far wiser writers have comprehensively concluded CYMBELINE is not Shakespeare’s finest work. Thus, with mild trepidation I sat down to watch Strawdog Theatre Companies production; however, the play provides some laughs and in the end, I was reminded that even the bard’s lesser material packs a powerful punch.
In short, Cymbeline’s daughter Imogen is promised to marry her step-brother Cloten but she secretly weds Posthumous who is subsequently banished. Throw in subplots including kidnapped twin sons and impending war and one is left with a story more convoluted and implausible than the recent season finale of SHERLOCK.
Like the plot, this production—directed by Robert Kauzlaric—is all over the place. Some of the performances stunned. Foppish fool Cloten (Gage Wallace) earns laughs while milking bawdy lines. Loyal servant Pisanio (Michaela Petro) adeptly and humorously narrates. When these two took the stage I couldn’t resist being fully engaged.
However, neither Imogen (Daniella Pereira) or Posthumous (Sam Hubbard) offer any compelling cause for me to care about the characters or their conflict. Both actors deliver technically adequate performances but fail to have me rooting for them the way I would any Disney princess and prince.
Moreover, Queen (Sarah Goeden) struggles with enunciation in a flat performance. Her physicality and tone seem more Maria Van Trapp than Baroness Von Schrader. I yearn for bolder character choices from her and Brandon Saunders in the title role.
That said, Alan Donahue’s minimalist set serves as a mesmerizing show within the show. Using wood pallets and a large fabric sheet he transports us from chambers to caves with each scene change gracefully choreographed. Additionally, Brittany Dee Bodley’s costumes create allusions of Elizabethan apparel with theatric flair
Of course, it wouldn’t be Shakespeare sans a fight scene. Matt Hawkins visually dazes with a battle that generates uneasiness by incorporating slow motion movement.
The fact that the supporting cast, design elements, and fight scene upstage the leads leaves me ambivalent about this production.
Yet, the themes remain universal. At times, many of us feel betrayed. Some of us might seek revenge. Given our current political and social climate perhaps we would benefit from more people watching—and discussing—a play in which forgiveness and communication trump hate and revenge.
Or—at the very least—we can elevate our insults.
CYMBELINE runs through February 25th at The Factory Theater, 1623 W. Howard St. For more information visit strawdog.org.