The cast of Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s Cymbeline takes the adage “the show must go on,’’ very seriously, ensuring even through the rains Friday night that they brought their show to completion.
The outdoor play, held adjacent to the lagoon at Stan Hywet, was marred by a brief rain in the first act and then heavier, sustained rain in the second. As audience members grabbed umbrellas and raincoats, the players onstage didn’t let on that the rain was bothering them at all. Even so, director/actor Terry Burgler broke character just before the story’s three battle scenes to explain that the cast could not risk using real weapons on a stage slick from rain.
He summarized the play’s three battles — which represent a crucial turning point in the complex story — and prompted his cast through the dialogue surrounding the battles in an attempt to get through the play’s final scenes.
A powerful part of the story was undeniably lost in the transition, but Ohio Shakespeare Festival nevertheless did its best under the circumstances. Audience members also were told they could use their tickets to return to see the full play, which Burgler promised would be well worth it just to see the cast’s armor in the battle scenes.
In this Shakespearean play, which today is often considered a romance rather than a tragedy, Princess Imogen, daughter to King Cymbeline (Timothy Champion) of Britain, secretly marries Posthumus, who is a noble man but not a royal. This incurs the wrath of her tyrant father, who banishes Posthumus. In the meantime, his queen, Imogen’s stepmother, plots to make Imogene marry her spoiled son, Cloten.
Posthumus (Bernard Bygott) escapes to Italy, where he gets wrapped up in a wager about his wife’s faithfulness with Iachimo, played with unctuous arrogance by Andrew Cruse. Jealousy takes over, Posthumus vows revenge, and the princess finds herself running for her life, disguised as a boy.
Ohio Shakespeare Festival approaches the work as a tragicomedy, mining even a beheading as a comical, cavalier action. Andrew Gombas and Joe Pine bring plenty of levity to their roles as Guiderius and Arviragus, mountain men who are not who they seem to be.
In this fantastical story, the princess runs into these mountaineers – whom she does not realize she is linked to by birth — in their cave. The “man crush’’ the brothers develop on the disguised Imogen is humorous in this production, including their repeated slaps to her back.
Guiderius, Arviragus and their supposed father, Belarius (Terry Burgler) look wild with long, unkempt hair but Terry Burgler’s curly, long blond wig looks too strangely feminine to go with his natural gray beard.
His daughter, Tess Burgler, is charming as the lovely, strong-willed Imogen, who’s drawn and worried about her husband’s banishment but is later spurred to action. She is paired nicely with Bernard Bygott, who plays a noble and passionate Posthumus.
Geoff Knox makes a believable dolt as Cloten, who takes a long time to realize he has been insulted, and Holly Humes is appropriately icy as his conniving mother.
In this complex story, Britain goes to war with the Romans and main characters pop in and out of battles in disguise, even switching sides. Nevertheless, Burgler’s accomplished cast makes the convoluted story clearly understandable.
The biggest villains are ultimately disposed of, the main troublemaker confesses to his trickery, and the story ends in numerous happy reunions. The story of Cymbeline has a bit of everything in what Ohio Shakespeare Festival deems a fairy tale with its evil queen and spellbound king. Expect an element of the supernatural, too, as the ghosts of the hero Posthumus’ family appear to bemoan his fate and the god Jupiter intervenes.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.