Obscure Shakespeare play succeeds at KC’s Metropolitan

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By Bob Evans

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Not many know of Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” and even fewer have read or seen the five-act play, but forget about that and take the plunge to actually see and hear The Bard’s seldom produced play at Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre in midtown, Kansas City, Missouri.

Karen Paisley, known for taking risks with material, selected the seldom produced play and brings it to life in an avaunt guard style that will keep the audience’s mind spinning. Costumes come from different eras; platforms and steps replace standard sets; and few props help keep the focus on the actors and Shakespeare’s words.

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(I heard for years that Shakespeare should be seen and heard. Not being an English Literature major, I avoided any and all classes focuses on Shakespeare. Now, with local theaters producing Shakespeare’s works, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, and other opportunities to see his work, understanding Shakespeare is not as challenging as I had once feared. I encourage others to go to see some Shakespeare and acquaint themselves with some of his work.)

“Cymbeline” casts a strange net in that it’s full of cruelty and humor. Viewers really are confused what the expect from this unknown piece. Queen Cymbeline chews up the scenery and all who encounter her, other than the Grand Duke, her lover/husband. She’s vicious, cruel, and downright mean, and portrayed by Manon Halliburton, all of her bad qualities are amplified. Yet, when she finds comfort, peace, and happiness, her tenderness breaks hearts when tears of joy stream down her cheeks. Magnificently played by Halliburton, the character’s emotional range is wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon.

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Opposite Cymbeline, the Scott Cox plays a dual role as the Duke and Belarius. While the character of the Duke is cold and conniving, Cox plays Belarius as bold, loving, and caring. The two characters allow Cox to show his range to the audience and help them separate his two personalities in the play.

As the young lovers, Imogen and Posthumus Leonatus, Marie Warner and Logan Black put two very different characters on the stage. Warner mirrors the head-strong will of her mother, Queen Cymbeline, but more frequently displays the gentler, emotional side of her character, Still, when needed, she summons her determined, head-strong bravery as she faces adversity. Black, very devoted to Imogen, but short of confidence and trust falls victim to a sinister plot to steal his diamond ring in a bet that Iachimo can claim Imogen as his conquest and prove her an infidel. Black’s Postumus is touching and funny.

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Along with Warner, Dalton Mobley, Matthew Emerick, Micole Hall and Tommy Waller make their MET debut in this piece. Consistent with past performers, director Karen Paisley finds and showcases fresh faces for her MET productions. And, as always, she finds just the right actors for both the major and supporting roles. Expect to see more of these talented thespians in subsequent productions.

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The cast is: Manon Halliburton, Scott Cox, Marie Warner, Logan Black, Dalton Mobley, Matthew Emerick, Megan Wagner, Andy Penn, Jordan Fox, Nicole Hall, Tommy Waller, Alan Tilson, Ben Hussman, Colin Fewell, Christopher Preyer, Alex Paxton.

“Cymbeline” continues at Kansas City’s Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre through Nov. 26. Tickets can be purchased and more information found on the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre website.

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Tags: Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, “Cymbeline”, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City

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