Shakespeare in the Park presents beautifully at the Water Stage in the Myriad Gardens. Yet in the hottest and driest month of the year moving to a space indoors is a delightful and welcome relief. Oklahoma City University is hosting Shakespeare in the Park’s production of “Cymbeline” in the Burg Theatre on the OCU campus. Very nice indeed!
“Cymbeline” is not one of Shakespeare’s better known plays. Set in the Roman Empire under Caesar, Britain is a province that must pay tribute to Rome. The play has a very convoluted plot, telling the story of the Princess Imogen, daughter to the King, Cymbeline, who has fallen in love with the wrong man. She has secretly married the lowly lordling, Posthumous, and her father is incensed. Cymbeline’s Queen is step-mother to Imogen and has plotted a marriage between Imogen and her son Cloten. Posthumous is exiled to Rome where he foolishly wagers on Imogen’s chastity with the irresponsible rake, Iachimo. Imogen must ultimately escape both the bad reputation she is given by Iachimo, and her father’s determination to have her marry Cloten. The program has a very helpful synopsis and one should take a few moments to read this in order to better understand the action.
The cast of “Cymbeline” under the direction of Kathryn McGill creates a credible flow with clarity which enables the audience to follow the twists and turns in the play. The set is very minimalistic and the scenes are created by subtle lighting effects. McGill’s Assistant Director and Dramaturg, Caprice Woosley, and Fight Choreographer, Josh Henry, enable McGill to provide a concise flow to the piece counteracting complications many modern viewers encounter with Shakespeare.
J. Shane McClure, in the title role, gives a forceful and realistic performance. McClure’s presence is arresting and very interesting. Allyson Capetta is a lovely Imogen and although her speech pattern is a little rapid, her character beams through nicely. The wicked step-mother, The Queen, is played by Mandee Chapman-Roach. She has an excellent characterization, and her mannerisms are very natural allowing her character to fool her King, Cymbeline. Yet her deliciously subtle evil is apparent to the audience.
Kyle Whalen is Posthumous and his performance is well done. While there are actually very few moments allowing Imogen and Posthumous to relate to each other, Whalen and Capetta do create the vision of a loving couple. As rival to Posthumous, the crafty Cloten is portrayed by Josh Henry. Henry has just the right amount of cunning and his talent is evident as an actor as well as choreographer.
Rob Gallavan is Iachimo the dastardly villain. Gallavan presents the slick con-artist type of villain with realism and manages his underhanded examination of Imogen as believably as possible. The independent conspiracies of Iachimo and the Queen are handled beautifully by both Chapman-Roach and Gallavan are fun for modern audiences to watch, and it is clear that both actors enjoy their roles.
David Fletcher-Hall provides the original music for the production which is excellent. In the opening overture, the music sets up the play very well, although the drum which appears to be of Native American origin is confusing, the sound is quite nice. Fletcher-Hall also shines as Belarius, exiled from Britain many years ago. Fletcher-Hall has a very controlled and directed delivery creating an understandable presentation. His experience as a Shakespearean actor gives him quite an edge, and his talent as the banished nobleman is unmistakable. His two adopted sons, Guiderius and Arvirgus, are portrayed by Andrew Rathgeber and Nathan Cockroft respectively. While the two actors appear earlier in the play as either lords or servants their characterizations of the two sons are clearly defined as different and distinct.
As Caius Lucius or Philario, actor Michael Gibbons has a commanding personality. Defined in a different fashion in each case, his performance is vital to the production providing stability. He does so with a distinguished grace.
In viewing Shakespeare one often finds the noble characters to be a little dull-witted. Yet the servants seem to be more reasonable and intelligent. The role of Pisanio is such a one. He is faithful to Posthumous and helpful to Imogen. The actor is Mason Pain. He is realistically intelligent although not cunning, and is a nice counterpoint to Iachimo who is realistically cunning although not quite so bright.
Martha Corkum gives a very nice presentation as Doctor Cornelius although her delivery during the last scene when she must explain all the convolutions seems a little rushed. Shakespeare does seem to wrap up a great deal of confusion and contrivance at very last minute and is naturally quite quick. A more deliberate delivery would help the audience absorb the far-fetched happenstance. This would also give McClure a better chance to react with the massive changes in his life giving the end of the play more substance.
Elisa Regulski is refreshing in her performance as a lady of the court. She is unaffected in her performance and seems to observe the action with aplomb. She also appears as a tribune and defines the masculine securely.
There are a few scenes in this production Director McGill should be especially proud to present. The battle scene choreographed by Josh Henry used a very few souls to create the impression of two armies clashing, and the scene works beautifully. Also the devious expressions of the Queen are quite wonderful nearly allowing Chapman-Roach to steal the show.
“Cymbeline” can only be seen through this weekend at the Burg Theatre on the Oklahoma City University campus. Remaining performances are Friday and Saturday evening at 8:00pm and Sunday at 2:00pm. Sunday’s performance will be a great way to escape the afternoon heat. For tickets visit www.oklahomashakespeare.com or call 405-235-3700.