CHRISTOPHER GEARY AS CLOTEN AND SHERIA IRVING AS IMOGEN IN "CYMBELINE"
PHOT BY CAROL ROSEGG
In Shakespeare’s day, it was a common practice for men to play women’s roles as well as their own. Today, in the spirit of turnabout’s fair play, in the Bard’s mind-expanding play “Cymbeline” currently exploding in love, lust, passion, power, revenge and rage, women are finding themselves in breeches and bodkins and men in brocade and bodices. The Yale Repertory Theatre will be entertaining the fashion revisions until Saturday, April 16. For director Evan Yionoulis, the transgender switches are intriguing and open up lines of emotional exploration, to have a female play King Cymbeline and have his Queen, his second wife, tower over him as a six foot male.
“Cymbeline” is packed with complexities, with comic moments, violent battles, a marriage without permission, kidnappings, banishments and forgiveness, clearly a fairy tale gone out of control. Jean Kim’s amazing castle set lends an air of mystery and magic to this tale as do the subtle lighting changes created by Elizabeth Mak and the original music design by Pornchanok (Nok) Kanchanabanca. This play by the Bard does not easily fit into one category as it contains tragedy, romance and comedy so you need to come and judge for yourself, all almost three hours of action.
Kathryn Meisle presides over the court as the judgmental Cymbeline, King of Britain, who has lost two infant sons in a kidnapping, has remarried a Queen, the stately and conniving Michael Manuel and cannot control the love interests of his daughter Imogen. The independently minded Imogen, a feisty spark of a maiden Sheria Irving, has secretly married Posthumus Leonatus, an honorable but lowly commoner Miriam A. Hyman.
The King banishes Posthumus so that Imogen can marry a royal and thus succeed to the throne, but the pair has already exchanged a ring and a bracelet as tokens of their betrothal. Meanwhile the Queen is busy plotting the deaths of both Imogen and the King, to free the path for her posturing fool of a son, Cloten, cleverly brought to ridiculous life by Christopher Geary.
While Posthumus hides in Rome, his scheming friend Iachimo (Jeffrey Carlson), bets him he can prove Imogen is unfaithful, Cloten steals clothes from Posthumus in his vain attempt to win Imogen’s affection, the Roman ambassador (Jonathan Higginbotham) demands the King pay tributes to Rome and when he refuses a war ensues, Imogen disguises herself as a lad Fidele (faithful) to find Posthumus, the treacherous Queen dies and her son is beheaded. Hopefully you are taking careful notes.
As Will is wont to do, all the loose ends are tied up nicely at the end, with Imogen and Posthumus reunited, the King finding his long lost sons (Robert David Grant and Chalia La Tour) thanks to a confession by their kidnapper (Anthony Cochrane), the tribute to Rome is paid and a great party is held to celebrate. Evan Yionouixs directs this most ambitious theatrical offering in a grand and royal fashion.
For tickets ($20-99), call the Yale Repertory Theatre at 203-432-1234 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org. Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. on April 13 as a senior reception as well as school performances. All shows will be at the University Theatre, 222 York Street, New Haven.
Watch how jealousy and betrayal unbalance a kingdom as love is threatened, battles are waged and revenge is anything but sweet.