Paul Edward Hope and Josh Thelin in Cymbeline
Photo by: Marcus Geldud
Reviewed by Cindy Pierre
Folding Chair Classical Theatre's production of Cymbeline is a wonderful romp into British history and a razzle-dazzle display of acting talent. It follows the story of Posthumus Leonatus (Paul Edward Hope), a man with questionable pedigree, and his troubled, secret marriage to Imogen (Lisa Blankenship), King Cymbeline's (Gowan Campbell) daughter. It’s been called both a tragedy and a romance, but in the hands of the cast, it's nothing short of an incredible feat in skill and entertainment. A six-person ensemble plays 25 roles, with nothing but acting chops and limited costumes to distinguish one from the other. Like Folding Chair's previous productions, Cymbeline is boldly performed in plain clothes and simple props, leaving the focus on the words, the performance, and Marcus Geduld’s spearheading direction, which turns the text into a passionate animal.
Newcomer Josh Thelin, who plays four roles, stands out in the company. His Cloten is wildly emotive, a geyser of passion, hubris, and tomfoolery. One particularly vivid scene has him prancing around in leopard-skin undies as he commands a flamboyant servant (Hope) to give him a hilariously conceived butt massage.
Thelin may stand out, but almost everyone in the cast is a triumph, even when their voices dip beneath the hum of the air conditioner. Only Karen Ogle's Queen needs some help, for she plays the part in the same manner that she plays Cadwal, Cymbeline's long-lost son. The tiara she wears isn’t enough to make her regal: whereas the rest of the cast do well without full costume, a stiff one with boning could have helped to improve Ogle's posture and movement.
The music, which fits the swelling and contracting of the circumstances, could’ve used some stiffening too: it is too grand for the show's aesthetics. Then again, from Hope’s great fight choreography to the acting and the directing, everything is grand. Fresh, gutsy, and exciting, Cymbeline is, like Our Country's Good earlier this year, another jewel in Folding Chair's crown.
Cymbeline (2hrs and 45 min with intermission)
78th Street Lab (236 W. 78th Street, NY NY 10024
Tickets: $18 http://www.smarttix.com/
Through November 2nd.