One of the bard of Avon’s last works, and short on the rich poetry of its successor The Tempest, The Tale of Cymbeline is second-rank Shakespeare–but in the hands of Shakespeare Repertory it’s first-class entertainment. Revived from several seasons back, the production is stylishly directed by Barbara Gaines, who knows how to have fun with the play’s romantic extravagances without making fun of them. A verbally eloquent, physically vigorous cast wittily enacts this wonderfully twisty tale of innocence betrayed (the plot features a handsome hero unjustly exiled, a faithful bride deceived by a wily seducer, a pair of princelings disguised as “rustic mountaineers,” a wicked stepmother with a sleeping potion, and a visit from Jupiter). Gaines’s vividly colorful storybook staging conveys elaborate pageantry through effective use of bold fantasy-film tableaux, robust martial-arts ceremony, lush and luxurious costumes (designed by Karin Kopischke in a medieval-England-meets-ancient-Rome vein), Michael Merritt’s sleek, spare wood-paneled set, and dreamily gorgeous lighting by T.J. Gerckens (after Robert Shook’s 1989 design). This is inventive, lively theater that delights in the sheer joy of stagecraft–one of those rare shows in which all the elements work together spectacularly well. Ruth Page Theater, 1016 N. Dearborn, 642-2273. Through October 31: Wednesdays-Fridays, 7:30 PM; Saturdays, 4 and 8:30 PM; Sundays, 2 and 6 PM; Thursday, October 14, 1:30 PM only. $19.50-$29.50.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Roger Lewin–Jennifer Girard Studio.