Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cymbeline—Anon It Moves—SE Portland


This lesser known tragedy by Shakespeare is freely adapted to the stage and directed by Kira Atwood-Youngstrom (founding member of the company).  It plays at the Milagro Theatre space, 525 SE Stark St., through August 8th.  For more information, go to their site at  (Be warned, it is only street parking and can be tricky to find a space, so plan your time accordingly.)

This goes above and beyond the world which we know and transports us to a Neverland, where anything is possible.  It is not unlike a fairy tale, as it has elements of Snow White & the Huntsman; it skirts the boundaries of Sci-Fi in the costuming of the Romans; it plays with the mazes of our minds such as in Rocky Horror…; has a Cowboy-Western flavor in the depiction of the Outlaws; exposes a Japanese-Samurai flow as in the fight/dance scenes; but still has a foot firmly in the land of Mr. Shakespeare.  In other words, it defies description and genre but works in a surreal way.

The story may be the least appealing thing about the show, as it’s so unimportant to the enjoyment of the presentation that you’d wish it’d just go away.  I mean, how many people are going to set up a wager in which one person, to prove the faithfulness of their mate, bets with an enemy that they can’t seduce her?  And what kind of leader declares banishment on anybody who disagrees with him (pretty soon, no people in his country, right?)?  And what sort of play spends several minutes at the end of the play explaining the various, devious plots which the audience already knows and has seen?

This is not the Bard at his best…but it if fertile ground for the amazing imagination of Atwood-Youngstrom, the director.  And, with that talent, she weaves, with the equally talented, fight choreographer, Kristen Mun; dance choreographer, Cari Spinnler; original music by The Fith Sisters, Kyle Acheson, Nicholas Erickson and Sarah Yeakel; some out-of-this-world costumes and make-up by Summer Olsson; and an amazing cast, a world of make-believe which transcends our puny reality.

But, for you purists, who need a rack to hang your hat on, here is the story in a nutshell.  It seems that, once upon a time, there was this odious King, Cymbeline (Anthony Green) and his equally disagreeable wife, the Queen (Paige Johnson Jones), who rule the kingdom with a blind eye to just about everything.  His favorite child, the naive Innogen (Jahnavi Alyssa), has taken up with a lover, Posthumus (Alwynn Accuardi) who displease the King and so was banished.  The Queen is obsessed with controlling the throne by having her half-wit son, Cloten (Steve Vanderzee) either marry the child, or having her murdered, whichever comes first.

Into this make-shift family are a curious lot of servants/advisors in the guise of the all-seeing, Cornelius (R. David Wyllie), a good-hearted soul, Pisanio (Nathan Crosby) and a faithful follower, Helen (Madeline Shier).  They are also at war with the Romans (Sarah McGregor, Juliana Wheeler, Tyler Miles and Shannon Mastel) who are not only deceptive but valiant fighters.  And to add ever more confusion to the rambling plot, there are three scurvy outlaws (Andrea White, Joseph Gibson and Murri Lazaroff-Babin), also banished by the King, who are intricate links in the chain of events about to happen.  All this watched over by the gods in the form of Diva (Sarah Yeakel), who will intervene whenever she feels the story takes a misstep.  Obviously, I’m not going to tell you how it all turns out.

The cast is amazing.  Most of them are comfortable with the Shakespearian banter and speaking it in a conversational way.  Green and Jones are old pros on the stage and their experience shows in their performances.  Alyssa, as the daughter, has the look of someone who you want to take in your arms and protect but it is obvious that she also has moxie and can give as good as she gets.  Vanderzee as the ne’er-do-well son is a hoot, sliming and sleazing his way into our demented hearts.  Crosby is especially pleasing as, perhaps, the only good guy in the flock.  White and her minions present a welcome relief to the boorish lord and ladies.  And, McGregor and her ilk, give us, with relish, the mirror side of the Brit aristocracy.

As mentioned, the dance, music and fight sequences (Spinnler, Fith Sisters & Mun) are some of the highlights of the show.  But, make no mistake about it, this is Atwood-Youngstrom’s baby from first to last.  She is the fearless leader that bravely sails us into uncharted waters, in which we will eventually navigate safely back to our own shores, definitely wiser and more fulfilled than when we departed on this journey with she and her crew.  Anon… always take risks with their productions, and I’m sure will continue to do so, and I’ve never been disappointed in the results.  Brave, on!

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell then Dennis sent you.

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