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LA Theater Review


Photo Source: Ian Flanders
Cymbeline is not known as one of Shakespeare's best, but this production makes the script fully comprehensible and even rather palatable. Ellen Geer's direction respects tradition, while giving a brightness to the play's darker moments yet not dismissing its themes of feminism and forgiveness. And she makes artistic and practical use of this outdoor theater's hillside space, as actors happily pick flowers in the distance or furiously charge down the hill to declare battle. Seen in the sunshine and breezy air, this production turns the play's time-and-space-traveling construct into a magic-carpet ride and the horrific evils into nearly laughable whimsy.

Not to say some of the actors don't bring exciting realism to their roles. In particular, Aaron Hendry (alternating performances with Steve Matt) thrills as Iachimo, the undisputed villain of this play. Hendry convincingly stalks, preens, leers, and then quakes as Iachimo's actions are unwound at the play's end. Thad Geer makes a hearty Cymbeline, the king whose volatility sets the play in motion. As his second wife, Susan Angelo's Queen is cheerily despicable. Jeff Wiesen hilariously plays the Queen's son Cloten as hugely spoiled and petulant. As Cloten's competitor in love, Posthumus, Mike Peebler is remarkably present, with clearly expressed intentions, even as we wonder why his character of the duped husband is such a fool. And Gerald Rivers is a reliable actor playing the reliable servant Pisanio.

As our heroine, Imogen, Willow Geer is lovely to look at, and when one tunes out her voice, she appears appropriately real yet heightened, as greatly suits this style of Shakespeare. She is comfortable in her physicality, much at home on the stage. But her voice is shrill, particularly when trying to express unhappiness, frustration, and other negative states.

Impressive in smaller roles are Jonathan Blandino, whose direct style and pleasant stage voice make for ease of understanding the First Lord, and Paul Turbiak, noticeably amusing as the French Gentleman.  Sharing the wealth, Ellen Geer has cast women to play the doctor, Cornelius, portrayed by Cj Merriman, and the second of Cymbeline's lost sons, Arviragus, played as a hyperkinetic tomboy by Samara Frame.

Presented by and at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga. May 31Sept. 27. Sun. 3:30 p.m.
(310) 455-3723.

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