A Scrappy Production of Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline”

Marin Shakespeare Company for their first of this season is presenting the Shakespeare’s rarely produced Cymbeline.  Director Robert Currier has taken The Bard’s complex tragicomedy and shaped it into a good-looking, exciting and highly theatrical fairy tale with music.

Cymbeline sometimes is branded a tragedy, a tragicomedy and a romance. It is rarely produced in this country due to the complex plot lines which I won’t go into. If you go I suggest you read the story line first in the program.

As a dark comedy, Cymbeline is true contrasting, shuffling humor, fairy tale themes and murderous betrayal with an underlying spiritual message. Robert Currier inserts modern touches into the two hour and half production such as having a musical band in a back ground composed of modern instruments like a bassoon and a ukulele play out certain scenes or a character in the bar scene singing “That’s Amore”.

With several story threads in this exhilarating wild ride of a production, they are rarely what they seem.  It is important to pay attention to small instances and early expositions that will become important later.

Overall the ensemble cast is exceptional, highly dynamic and they exuded a transferrable enthusiasm playing the mash-up roles.  King Cymbeline is powerfully portrayed by veteran actor Paul Abbott. His magnificent voice booms through the whole amphitheater.

The story does involve around Imogen beautifully played by Stella Heath, daughter of King Cymbeline , a strong and honorable young woman.  She is delightful and convincing whether a princess or masquerading as young man. Thomas Gorresbeeck is outstanding as both Posthumus, a poor orphan raised by the king and loved by Imogen and the rascal Cloten, son to the Queen. Both play their role with skilled level-headedness. In his role as Cloten, he makes the most of his plumb role. He is utterly convincing as a campy narcissistic character. He also does a mean dance to one of the “fruge” songs.

Davern Wright is excellent as Iachimo, who bets against Princess Imogen’s chastity and delivers a terrific performance with resonant voice and skill for physical comedy. Lee Fitzpatrick gives an over the top performance as the Queen that reminds me of a Disney’s version of an evil queen. Debi Durst is pitch perfect as the Cornelius, the court doctor.

Zack Purdy and Patrick St. John give charismatic performances as the rustic princess while Rod Gnapp is very moving as the their father-figure Belarius. Jed Parario also camps it up as the servant Pisanio.  The rest of the cast that consist of Debi Durst, Timothy Huls, Rory Keane, Annika Gullahorn, Zena Hinds, Rebecca Mellinger, Gabriela Schneider, Rafael Sebastian, Glenn Havlan, Xander Ritchey, Carolyn Doyle and Isabelle  Grimm all gives fetching performance in multi roles

Costume designer Tammy Berlin has designed beautiful classic costumes for the complete cast while the lighting designer Ellen Brooks has the stage brightly lit in many scenes. Jackson Currier set designer has designed a simple set with ramps to represent the mountains in the second act. Coming up next is the United State premiere of a new adaptation by Peter Anderson and Colin Heath of Don Quixote opening with previews starting on July 31 and an opening on August 7 and running until August 30 and finally Shakespeare’s exploration of power and ambition Richard III. Previews start September 4 with an opening of September 5 and running thru September 27th.


Cymbeline plays through July 26th

Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University of California, San Rafael.


Photos by Lori A. Cheung courtesy of Marin Shakespeare