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NY Theater Reviews

Jonathan Cake and Martha Plimpton/PH:Paul Kolnik


By Matt Windman

One of the Bard's less popular plays, Cymbeline is given a sumptuous, clean production under the artful direction of Mark Lamos.

Cymbeline hasn't been seen on Broadway since 1923, when it played 15 performances at Al Jolson's 59th Street Theatre. One of Shakespeare's least popular plays, it belongs in the romance category alongside The Winter's Tale, Pericles, and The Tempest.

Those unfamiliar with the play may have at least heard its most well-known verse: Fear no more the heat o' the sun, Nor the furious winter's rages Thou thy worldly task hast done, Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages..." Stephen Sondheim even set it to music in The Frogs.

The convoluted plot goes something like this. Against her father's wishes, Princess Imogen marries Posthumus, a lowly suitor. Posthumous is exiled and while there told that he has lost his bet that his wife would be faithful. He plots revenge. Unaware, Imogene travels to meet him while disguised as a man.

Mark Lamos' production is remarkably well-staged and enjoyable, making one of Shakespeare's most problematic texts come to life by emphasizing humor in addition to the sadness, and clarity of language to compliment the anarchic style and endless plot twists.

As Imogen, Martha Plimpton, who received a Tony nomination last season for her work in The Coast of Utopia, again proves her strengths as an actress. Also displaying their typical versatility are Tony winners Michael Cerveris as Imogen's husband, Phylicia Rashad as her stepmother and John Cullum as her father.

In addition to the superb 26-person ensemble, credit also goes to Michael Yeargan's subtle set design, which feels like a gold-framed oil painting come to life and Jess Goldstein's elaborate costumes, which range from British kings and Roman soldiers to forest dwellers.