I was lucky enough to see the Fiasco Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. Six talented actors perform the roles of 24 characters in a small black box theater, with several boxes and one sturdy trunk as props and set pieces. Besides the voice work of reciting Shakespeare’s poetry as if it were natural speech, each actor at the drop of a hat also sings either alone or together in a beautiful blend of voices. The cast is also called on to play musical instruments, including but not limited to guitar, banjo, french horn, and lots of different kinds of drums.
The pace is amazing. Scenes blend into one another quickly and organically, and people move locations the only indication that we are elsewhere the placement of the all important trunk. At one point the actor Ben Steinfeld performing the role of Iacomo in the act of sneaking out of a lady’s bedroom must crawl out the trap door of the valiant trunk and just as he was about to deliver a line, a siren from the street blared. Instead of trying to speak his lines over the trumpeting noise, he paused, and in his eyes let the audience know that he was now hearing what we were hearing as an audience, not as an actor in a play, and when the siren stopped, he picked up his lines again and resumed, but with just the tiniest acknowledgment in his eyes that we knew what he was doing. All the time he was waiting for the noise to stop, he was acting, though, in character as the scoundrel trying to win a bet about a woman’s fidelity.
It is a pleasure to watch such a capable cast perform a complicated play with the utmost clarity and simplicity and style. This company is truly wonderful. Every time they sang together as an ensemble I felt deeply happy. I hope that I get to see them again soon. It is a shame it was such a short run again– they deserve a much bigger audience.