CYMBELINE, Shakespeare’s Motley Crew, at the Viaduct Theatre. Like Shakespeare’s other late romances, Cymbeline is a loose assemblage of conflicting styles and realities. What begins as a tale of a tyrant king banishing his daughter Imogen’s lowborn husband, Posthumus, turns into a fantasy of divine intervention when Jupiter descends to the sleeping Posthumus in the fifth act. In a subplot difficult for a contemporary audience to abide, the exiled Posthumus wagers sleazeball Iachimo that he can’t seduce Imogen and joyfully sends him back to the kingdom to try.
A director’s first order of business is to clarify this play’s cluttered action. Jeremy B. Cohen never gets around to that in his production. Since he and the designers do little to distinguish locations or characters, the first half dozen scenes are nearly incomprehensible. Like many directors tackling Shakespeare, he pushes his actors to amplify the surface emotions suggested by each line rather than looking for the dramatic intent that might turn those lines into action. Only Maia Rosenfeld as the murderously ambitious queen keeps her character’s objectives squarely in the foreground, and the play comes into sharp focus every time she appears. When she’s absent, it seems as sketchy as the synopsis printed in the program. –Justin Hayford