by William Shakespeare
directed by Erin Nealer
Cymbeline is a classic fairytale, complete with a wicked stepmother, long-lost brothers, a princess in disguise, a prince in exile, true love, and a war brewing in the background. The Rude Mechanicals bring a Shakespearean fairy tale to life — and return to live theater!
November 5, 6, 7
All performances 8 PM
Greenbelt Arts Center
123 Centerway, Greenbelt, MD
King Cymbeline has recently married a wicked Queen. She wants her son, the brutish, foolish Cloten, to marry Cymbeline’s daughter from a previous marriage, the clever and kind Imogen, to secure their places in the royal line. Imogen is already married to her childhood friend Poshumus, a clever young man who loves her dearly. The Queen entrances Cymbeline, who exiles Posthumus on her recommendation.
In exile, Posthumus meets Iachimo at a bar. Iachimo wagers that he can persuade Imogen to sleep with him – Posthumus believes so deeply in Imogen’s faithfulness that he agrees, adding his ring (a gift from Imogen) to the betting pool. Iachimo tries to flirt with Imogen, and when she proves too faithful and wise for his advances, he sneaks into her bedroom at night to steal her bracelet (a gift from Posthumus) to prove she was disloyal. He reveals this to Posthumus, who writes to his servant Pisanio – he wants Pisanio to kill Imogen for her infidelity. Pisanio takes Imogen into the forest on the pretense of meeting Posthumus, but can’t bring himself to kill her. She disguises herself as a boy, and hides in the forest while Pisanio tells Posthumus she’s dead.
Meanwhile, Belarius, a former knight of Cymbeline’s court, is raising two boys – Arviragus and Guiderius – in the woods. The boys don’t know they’re Cymbeline’s sons, stolen by Belarius decades ago, when Cymbeline believed him to be a Roman spy. Imogen meets her brothers in the forest and instantly feels kinship to them, even if she doesn’t know why. Cloten disguises himself as Posthumus and hunts for Imogen in the forest – but finds the boys instead, who kill him. When Imogen finds his body, she believes it to be Posthumus, and she is bereft. She meets Cymbeline in the woods and, still in her male disguise, becomes his page.
When the Romans invade England, everyone comes together to defend the land – and suddenly, the boys’ true parentage, Imogen’s disguise, the Queen’s wickedness, and Iachimo’s lies all come to light.
From Erin Nealer: Welcome back! Boy, am I glad to see you all again.
When I first started planning for this show back in 2019, I honestly wasn’t sure why audiences would be interested in seeing Cymbeline. Relatively few people have even heard of it – it’s the only Shakespeare play the Rude Mechancials have never performed. People tend to prefer plays that hold up a mirror to our modern lives; the politics of Julius Caesar and drama of Macbeth are always in style. Cymbeline, by contrast, is a goofy little story so far removed from our modern lives that it feels like a fairytale.
Then, 2020 happened. And then 2021. And suddenly, a goofy little fairytale is exactly what Dr. Fauci ordered.
Cymbeline was first performed in 1611, just as London was recovering from the plague in 1610 – which makes me wonder if Shakespeare felt the same way. To Shakespeare’s post-quarantine audience, Cymbeline must have felt like an escape to a simpler time – a time of infinite possibility. A time without worries. A time a lot like childhood.
So I hope you can also embrace the childlike wonder of hearing a good story – perhaps for the very first time. I hope you can escape this year for a few minutes and let good always triumph over evil and true love conquer all.
|Caius Lucius||Sam Kopel|
|Stage Manager||Allison McAlister|
|Apprentice Director||Justin Bigelow|
|Lighting Design & Filming||Jeff Poretsky|
|Social Media||Wes Dennis|
|Book Binder||Alan Duda|
|Sound Design||Erin Nealer|
Theatrebloom: “It’s a brilliant, five-star production from The Rude Mechanicals.”
DC Metro Theater Arts: “A fanciful and delightful ‘Cymbeline’ from Rude Mechanicals”
Greenbelt News Review: “A sensory Feast”