Cymbeline: A Mishmash of Plots

There are only three basic plots in literature.  Or is it seven?  In any case, experts claim there are a very limited number of original stories that get recast, set in different times, locations, contexts, etc.

Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, playing at the Lansburgh through March 6, bears out the saying. It’s a combo of King Lear (father-daughter conflict, foreign invasion) and Othello (jealous husband, misunderstood virtuous wife) as the Playbill stated, with touches of Romeo and Juliet (forced separation, faux deaths), various comedies (girl disguised as boy) and even MacBeth (the plotting, evil queen).

So did it work?  Not so much.  It’s as if the play were trying to do everything and so accomplished not very much.

Story time at the Shakespeare Theater

I also didn’t get most of staging.  Sure, the water is cleansing and ritualistic.  But what was with the clear containers of water lining the back of the stage?

The fairytale framework with the Storyteller and the little girl who “narrate” the story? Yes, it’s clever.  We are seeing an improbably story that’s in a bedtime storybook, but not sure that it really worked.

I liked the Vespa as the modern day horse, and the reflecting throne that multiplied Cymbeline’s crown.  But at the end of the evening, those few fun points – and even the fine acting – couldn’t make up for a flawed source.

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