Small stage. Large ensemble. Huge story. Director Robert Kauzlaric navigates this Shakespearean dark fairy tale with finesse and humor. The show starts with the entire 15 member cast forming a circle. Each person is clad in black. They take a moment for a collective sigh. They then don their role defining garments and get to work. The ensemble will roll out this story seamlessly. The fluid action only stopping for an intermission respite.
Kauzlaric directs this in elegant minimalism. Scenic Designer Alan Donahue creatively uses a majestic cloth. It starts as the off-the-shoulder robe of the king. The ensemble pull it off and drape it to define the palace walls. Later, it’ll serve as a cave in the forest. Donahue also uses several crates in multiple ways: bar stools, a trunk and even a throne. The talented crew effortlessly change the scene location by expediently styling crates and cloth. Costume Designer Brittany Dee Bodley also adds whimsy to the aesthetic. Bodley cleverly layers on the personality over the black unitard-like basic. Michaela Petro (Pisanio) gets a knightly tunic. Daniella Pereira (Imogen) wears a sweet frock. Gage Wallace (Cloten) puts on a fanciful coat. And Sarah Goeden (Queen) deliciously models the ultimate wicked step mother look. Bodley even helps us keep track of the queen’s guards by fashioning them with eye masks of lace that match her look.
At the heart of the Shakespearean tale is the love story between the King’s daughter (played by Pereira) and the orphan (played by Sam Hubbard). Pereira and Hubbard charm with their commitment to love against all odds. When they are together, the bond is unbreakable. When they are apart, Hubbard falls victim to manly goading while a feisty Pereira blooms in independence. The resolute Pereira takes on the smarmy Jose Nateras (Iachimo), a calculating Goeden and a pompous Wallace. Wallace delivers an over-the-top hilarious performance as the Queen’s son. He nicely balances between animated buffoon and willful obtuse.
This entire super-sized cast is terrific. Kauzlaric even injects musical moments within this dark, merry adventure. At court, Wallace visibly delights in the beautiful harmonies of the singers. His amusement over the musical interlude is infectious as he brightly claps his hands and sits on their laps. Later in the woods, Terry Bell (Arviragus) and Dan Cobbler (Guiderius) hauntingly croon. All the tunes layer in a minstrel quality that emphasizes the folksy nature of Shakespeare’s tale. A princess in disguise lost in the woods runs into two princes unaware of their titles. When Bell, Cobbler and Pereira meet by chance, they are smitten in spontaneous brotherhood. The winsome exchange is made even more heart-warming to the audience because we know the true nature of their relationship.
It’s adventure after adventure in this engaging quest for love or crown. Late in the second act, an epic war scene breaks out. The choreographed battle (Matt Hawkins, fight director) is a visual thriller especially within the small confines. It’s one of many moments to love in this tale bursting with stories! To help guide us on the journey, the always commanding Petro speaks directly to the audience kicking off and closing the show. Her expressive narrations help us sort out the good guys from the bad guys. And sometimes even the bad ideas from the good guy. This Shakespeare in the (Rogers) Park has got it all! CYMBELINE is the perfect example of storefront theatre at its finest!
Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes includes an intermission
At Factory Theater, 1623 W. Howard
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Robert Kauzlaric
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 4pm
Thru February 25th
Buy Tickets at Strawdog.org
Production photos by Tom McGrath/TCMcG Photography
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