One of the considerations
in staging outdoor theater is the weather.
Theater outside, on a pleasant summer night, is a treat. But one has to be prepared for any weather conditions, including the not-so ideal ones.
This was driven home Aug. 2, the opening night for Ohio Shakespeare Festival's "Cymbeline," when a light rain fell a couple of times during the show.
The rain made little impact on the action onstage, and the audience merely put up umbrellas and put on raincoats until the brief showers subsided. The Ohio Shakespeare Festival troupe still did the bulk of the enjoyable show, although the fight scenes were not staged out of safety considerations. Vouchers were offered to the audience so they could return on another, hopefully drier, night to see the entire show in all its glory. According to director Terry Burgler, the fight scenes are pretty spectacular.
It's a pity that "Cymbeline" isn't done more often. There is a large cast to juggle but there's a lot of humor (although I wouldn't call this a comedy) and there's a good storyline. In the play, Postumus (played by Bernard Bygott), a respected member of the court, and the Princess Imogen (played by Tess Burgler) have surreptitiously been married, to the fury of her father Cymbeline (played by Timothy Champion). Cymbeline wants his daughter to marry royalty, and his scheming second wife (played by Holly Humes) wants her stepdaughter to marry her foppish son Cloten (played hilariously by Geoff Knox). Postumus is forced to flee to Rome. While there, he gets into an argument with Iachimo (played by Andrew Cruse), who challenges Postumus's claims about Imogen's virtue. Postumus is goaded into making a bet with Iachimo, who claims he can seduce the princess and bring back proof.
Meanwhile, an emissary from Rome, Caius Lucius (played by Jason Leupold) visits Cymbeline with a message from the Roman emperor, who is dissatisfied that Cymbeline has refused to pay tribute to Rome. When Cymbeline again refuses, he declares war against Rome.
There are many other plot elements as well: Imogen's flight from the castle, disguised as a lad, an exiled noble (played by Terry Burgler) who now lives as a mountain man and has been raising Cymbeline's two sons as his own, and the battle itself between the Britons and Rome.
Those attending the show should arrive early to catch the Greenshow, which is always a lot of fun. The Greenshow, put on by members of the Ohio Shakespeare troupe, includes Shakespearian-era songs, jokes and skits. Their condensed version of "Richard III" (staged in full two years ago by OSF) alone is worth the price of admission.
Ticket and show information
"Cymbeline" runs through Aug. 18. Performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at 8 p.m., although audiences should try to arrive by 7:30 p.m. to catch the Greenshow. Stan Hywet's grounds open at 6 p.m. for picnicking in the historic gardens. Concessions are available each evening, including assorted wines, and imported, microbrew and domestic beers.
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens is at 714 N. Portage Path in Akron. Tickets are $30 for reserved seating (the first 100 seats in the center, closest to the stage), or $25 for festival (open) seating. Student tickets are $15, and further discounts on adult tickets are available for OSF, WKSU, and Stan Hywet Members. Reservations may be at www.ohioshakespeare.com, or by calling the box office at 330-673-8761 daily (except Mondays) from noon to 5 p.m.