It’s always a treat to see what Pointless Theatre does with a story, and they rise to new levels with their take on one of Shakespeare’s rambling masterworks. The program notes that Shakespeare’s Cymbeline mentions Imogen throughout the script but the character’s storyline is mostly offset as secondary. Wonderfully adapted by director Charlie Marie McGrath, this original script shifts the focus to Imogen who has so much going on it’s a marvel to witness.
Cymbeline plot summaries indicate that King Cymbeline is the “puppet” of his brash new wife. Well, Pointless takes that point to heart and casts the ferocious King as an 8-inch hand-held puppet held by the Queen. He’s bedazzled with a crown and jewels and, voiced by Hilary Morrow who plays the Queen (a monumental feat, by the way), as she holds him in the palm of her hand. At first there were understandable snickers as the small puppet belts out orders as the King. I mean, like really? But after a while, the power of imagination settles in, and the snickers, while still there, actually quiet a bit. It’s an example of Pointless’ magic to tell the story, even accepting an 8-inch jeweled and crowned puppet ruling the kingdom. In the 2nd Act, he’s even tucked on the actress’s lapel so she can gesture hands-free. Okay, a few more amused snickers but all in fun to marvel at the outstanding Morrow to pull it off.
Meanwhile, Katelyn Manfre absolutely shines as Imogen. From the very beginning her fervent love for Leonatus, an appealing Alex Turner, is reflected in her expressions and entire being. They exchange treasured tokens of their affection before he sails off to far lands. He’s soon confronted by the lecherous Iachimo, played to the hilt by Kiernan McGowan, who wagers that he can seduce Imogen and then proceeds to trick his way into convincing the gullible Leonatus that she has been unfaithful, Iago and Desdemona style. Once Imogen is sent away and disguises herself as a boy living in the forest for safety, the action bubbles over into international terrain before it all resolves.
True to its source, the play covers an enormous range from the personal quest for truth and fidelity to warmongering among nations. Choreographer Ryan Sellers includes an incredible sequence of fierce movements with the actors mimicking brandishing military artillery then storming into each other in a hand-to-hand skirmish. This small company has found a way to tell the full story in its own way with refreshing and energetic twists, full of creativity and heart.
Along with shifting the focus to Imogen, what sets this iteration apart are the innovative character renditions. Acacia Danielson is caring and devoted as the dutiful servant Pisanio. Maximillan Lapine bumbles about as the Queen’s oafish son Cloten. And Lee Gerstenhaber does a fine turn as the surrogate mother to two banished brothers. Casting Renaldo McClinton and Kevin Thorne II as the frontier-savvy long lost royalty brothers works on many levels bringing a full spectrum of cultural awareness and inclusivity into the mix. Their urban look, sensitivities and modern day reactions bring a Wonderland appeal to their scenes. The Pointless touch is at it again.
closes February 11, 2018
Details and tickets
Costumes by Julie Cray Leong start with an Elizabethan flair with corsets and the Queen’s majestic brocaded billowing gown fit for the most regal Shakespeare stage. The attire transitions to more modern, get gritty and urban, including dark fatigues for guerilla warfare with each passing scene of the second Act.
The creative set by Patti Kalil is a standup backwall with curtained entryways for easy entrance and exits and window openings to show silhouetted projections. Trees painted on the surface blend into curvy trunks that extend onto the stage, providing seating and even a luscious bed when necessary.
The note from the director Charlie Marie McGrath connects the characters’ life passages with the importance of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival. Imogen is described as beginning to explore her world, new experiences, underrepresented voices, and she experiments with “taking agency in her own life.”
The show opened on the evening before the 2nd Women’s March and it’s a perfect vehicle to keep the juices flowing on taking agency and calling one’s own shots. Shakespeare, in the hands of the ever-entertaining Pointless Theatre is fun, poignant and truly accessible. The production is graced with the artistry of musicians Jonathan Een Newton and Michael Winch on violin and cello for a full package. Comfortably ensconced in their Dance Loft venue, Pointless is maintaining focus on its mission, “… dedicated to creating bold, visceral, and affordable spectacles that gleefully smash the traditional boundaries between puppetry, theatre, dance, music, and the visual arts.” If you haven’t seen them in a while, this is an ideal time to enjoy their adventure and prepare for the Rite of Spring ballet offering in April.
Imogen . Based on Shakespeare’s Cymbeline . “Reimaged” and Originally Adapted and directed by by Charlie Marie McGrath . Cast: Katelyn Manfre, Hilary Morrow, Kiernan McGowan, Alex Turner, Acacia Danielson, Maximillian Lapine, Lee Gerstenhaber, Renaldo McClinton and Kevin Thorne II, Navid Azeez, Mason Catharini . Lighting Designer—Mary Keegan . Set Designer – Patti Kalil . Costumes – Julie Cray Leong . Choreography by Ryan Sellers . Puppet Designer – Matt Reckeweg . Stage Manager—Cindy King . Musicians— Jonathan Een Newton and Michael Winch . Produced by Pointless Theatre . Reviewed by Debbie Minter Jackson.