The Coastal Post - June 1999

Shakespeare's Cymbeline Reviewed


By Jeff Smith

As is his summer custom, Shakespeare has departed the Thames and Avon Rivers for the confluence of Easkoot Creek and Stinson Beach. Another Shakespeare season announced itself under the evening sky and Klieg lights of Stinson this month. Jeffrey Trotter, the dauntless, mercurial impresario, has miraculously reinvented the Stinson troupe as "Shakespeare at Stinson" and has boldly opened the season with CYMBELINE, one of Shakespeare's most evolved romantic comedies.

Veteran Ken Kelleher directs this first opus of the 1999 season. Kelleher meticulously steers the entire cast to superlative performances while prudently leaving plenty of artistic freedom and creative space for Choreographer Mary Beth Cavanaugh and Lighting Designer Dan Scott. Under any circumstances this play is a marvel; under the actual circumstances--and the politics of show business--it borders on the miraculous.

While CYMBELINE may be one of Shakespeare's lesser performed plays, the reasons for its relative obscurity are certainly not apparent in this stunning production. The theme, wit, wisdom and humor are easily accessed. Like his previous Stinson works, Kelleher takes special care to make sure the Elizabethan English is carefully chiseled, clearly articulated and rendered audience friendly by finely measured enunciation. The play, although faithful to Shakespeare's script is so manageable you can leave your Cliff Notes at home.

CYMBELINE is a dramatic and romantic comedy. It marks the period in Shakespeare's life and career when the bard had transcended traditional comedy, tragedy and history. It is a distillation of life, an escape from literalness and a flight into sublime alchemic metaphor.

Kieron Edwards--who brought roars of laughter in last year's TEMPEST--is back. Edwards and Drew Anderson provide comic leavening to the show. Their antics, expressions and asides highlight the foolery and amplify the buffoonery, even to the extent that children in the audience can appreciate Shakespeare's entrenched humor.

Stinson's preeminence remains an enigma to Bay Area Theater critics. How does a village of 600 people, seemingly dedicated to outdoor basketball and surfing, manage to consistently host such an artistically successful theater? By all definitions, Stinson's theater is termed "small" --it is under 100 seats even on the best of nights--yet Producing Director Jeffrey Trotter's company and casts have traditionally won an embarrassingly disproportionate share of theater awards and nominations. Critics nearly have to be Shanghaied to get them to take the tortuous trip to Stinson but the Transdermal Dramamine Patches are a small price to pay for such exquisite theater.

For an evening of Shakespeare, traditionally, and rightfully, acclaimed as the Bay Area's finest, get thee to Stinson Beach. Now through June 27th, Kelleher and the cast of CYMBELINE will add to the Stinson legacy. Be warned, after the sun sets, the temperature will adequately chill your Riesling. Wear your best snow mobiling suit. No tie is necessary, although a muffler would not be inappropriate. For reservations call 415 868-1115 and enjoy.

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