Sunday, August 15, 2004

Buy Shakespeare's 'Cymbeline' as is

All things considered, Shakespeare would probably have been better off if he called his 'Cymbeline' 'As You Like It.' There are few, if any, of his other plays that take such great pains and go to such great lengths to include something that pleases everyone.
You get a smattering of history; a bit of swashbuckling; the requisite gender-bending; the mistaken identity; plenty of wink-wink, nudge-nudge sex; blundering nobility; admirable commoners; and all the other themes that run through most of the Bard's work. The difference here is that you get it all in one show, which may explain why the show is not produced all that often.

'Cymbeline,' currently running in a beautiful, tree-studded setting at Livermore's Retzlaff Winery, is a hard play to take seriously. You get the feeling that with this outing, Shakespeare wanted to blow it all out by offering up a banquet of theatrical delights. The problem, of course, is that by firing so many rockets, you leave a lot of smoke to be cleared away -- in fact, in this Valley Shakespeare Festival production, the final scene, where the loose ends are tied up, takes 15 or 20 minutes to complete."

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