The Annapolis Shakespeare Company invites you to a realm of royalty where kings banish their daughters’ secret husbands to lands far away, where evil queens plot to take over the throne with the aid of their machismo sons, where crafty villains thrive and there are magic potions and poisons and an intervention of the gods when all has gone awry. All of these epic fairytale elements are wound neatly into the package of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline - a rather impressive tale that weaves its two hours upon the stage to your delight and folly as you watch in wonder.
Directed by Sally Boyett-D’Angelo, this hidden gem in Shakespeare’s treasure trove sparkles to brilliant life with a stunning soundscape, glorious costumes, and superb actors. The story has a purposeful and very direct pacing to it, each scene concluding with a grandiose swell of music; most haunting and ominous, which is ended abruptly with a sharp strike upon the timpani to start the next scene.
Composer and Sound Designer Jonathan Boulden creates the realm of this play with his instrumentations that echo the tone of the show perfectly. The music itself sounds ancient, transporting the audience to a time long ago and a land faraway, making the stage transform into a kingdom of a struggling empire with Cymbeline at its head.
Costume Designer Maggie Cason continues the stunning effects of a time long forgotten with her whimsical and regal touches to the elaborate costumes laid upon the players. Shiny satin periwinkle becomes a flowing dress befitting a princess and more dark and foreboding colors like deep crimson and black bedeck the queen. There are plentiful colors both bright and dark creating a myriad of statuses among the characters. Cason’s notions of royalty are not lost on the king with her inclusion of gold accents for his robes.
Director Sally Boyett-D’Angelo in conjunction with Dialect Coach Nancy Krebs ensures that the audience understands all of Shakespeare’s text. While this play is not particularly difficult to interpret as the speeches are quite clear in their intent, there is ne’er a word misplaced or spoken without solid intent behind it so that the underlying emotions and meanings of what is happening on the stage can be truly understood.
Boyett-D’Angelo makes unique casting choices, doubling up roles that end up having a deep significance in doing so. The main example comes in her casting of Joey Ibanez as both secret lover and husband to the princess, Posthumus, and as the princess’s unruly obnoxious step-brother who wishes to woo her and marry her – Cloten. Lining these completely opposite characters together on the shoulders of one actor becomes deeply symbolic in a sense, and it allows Ibanez to show off his differentiation skills.
Ever present, looming over the scenes like some foreshadowing spirit is The Storyteller (Maria Jung) who later doubles up as both Belarius man of the woods and the god Jupiter. As the narrator Jung flitters about at the edge of scenes, appearing briefly in the wings as if nudging the audience to remind them that what they view is but merely a story. Her voice when telling such a tale is pristine and her presence on stage is a strong one, even when she is silently observing.
The play is laden heavy with evils of all varieties, but none so rakish as the vile rogue Iachimo (Joshua Boulden). An unctuous and most unsavory character this sleaze slimes his way into the princess’s chamber to befoul her most unfairly, and all without ever even touching her. Boulden’s arrogant confidence in facing off with Posthumus is superior and his sharp attitude laced with perfect diction on his scathing tongue creates a most vile villain.
Love struck and heartbroken all at once is fair Princess Imogen (Madeleine Stevens). When her secret husband is banished by her father, King Cymbeline (Rick Wade) she finds herself bereft with grief and expresses so with the crushed and torn looks upon her face and the choked up tears in her voice. Stevens, despite being woeful most of the show, is not a wishy-washy character, but rather a female with strong emotions that run deep, all rooted in the bases of love.
And the man who steals the show with his dual performance is Joey Ibanez. Creating two distinctive characters who share similarities is not easy but Ibanez makes it look like a stroll in the park. Playing the thickheaded Cloten he creates a man who is all brawn and arrogance, presuming himself not only gorgeous but the best at everything; a Shakespearean ‘Gaston’ if you will. As Cloten, he prances about the stage forever spouting off at the mouth about how great he is and how the throne shall be his. He takes the crown of brash and obnoxious, that is most certain.
But when Ibanez settles into the more subdued but equally passionate character of Posthumus – we see a completely different man upon the stage. Spoken more eloquently, moving with a fluid grace, this romantic man quickly dissolves into a man scorned, his tears of remorse and love over sweet Imogen quickly turning to tears of hatred and vengeance. Ibanez is a Shakespearean sensation, and well worth a trek out into the woods for this production.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes with one-15 minute intermission.
Cymbeline plays through October 27, 2012, at The Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 415-3513, or purchase them online. It is strongly advised that you purchase your tickets in advance as two performances are already sold out.