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Theater Review: 'Cymbeline' -- 3 stars

"Cymbeline" directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld at The Barrow Street Theatre. (Gerry Goodstein) Photo Credit: "Cymbeline" directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld at The Barrow Street Theatre. (Gerry Goodstein)

Cymbeline 

3 stars

The Fiasco Theater’s spare but inventive six-person adaptation of Shakespeare’s hopelessly convoluted romance “Cymbeline” makes for quite an unlikely and impressive success story.

This production premiered two seasons ago at a walk-up office space in TriBeCa. In January, Theatre for a New Audience mounted it Off- Broadway on 42nd Street. Now it is receiving an encore West Village.

To put it bluntly, “Cymbeline” is one of Shakespeare’s most mocked and reviled plays. Many scholars consider this unwieldy amalgamation of fairy tale, war, whimsy, gods, villains and thwarted love to be an embarrassment. It feels like you’re watching a mashup of “Othello,” “As You Like It,” “The Winter’s Tale” and “King Lear.”

It mainly revolves around Imogen, a British princess whose new husband, Posthumus, has been banished by her father. In Italy, the conniving Iachimo uses false evidence to convince Posthumus that Imogen has been unfaithful to him. This somehow causes Imogen to dress as a boy and wander out into the countryside.

By the end, Imogen’s evil stepmother has died, her idiotic stepbrother is decapitated, her long-lost brothers reappear and she is happily reunited with Posthumus.

Fiasco’s user-friendly adaptation, which streamlines the text and cuts numerous characters, celebrates storytelling at its most direct levels.

It is so intimate, breezy, full of physical comedy that you can forgive — and perhaps even enjoy — the play’s heavyhanded nature.

Best among the cast are Ben Steinfeld, who makes for a humorously sleazy Iachimo, and Andy Grotelueschen as the hopelessly self-centered and whiny Clotten.


If you go:
“Cymbeline” plays at the Barrow Street Theatre through Dec. 31. 27 Barrow St., 212-868-4444, barrowstreettheatre.com.

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