The Playgoer: Donnellan on Cymbeline

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Donnellan on Cymbeline

One of my favorite directors, Declan Donnellan, is back at BAM this month with his new "Cymbeline." It plays for just ten days, starting now.

NY Sun has a nice feature on the production, where you get to see this original directorial mind at work:

Mr. Donnellan took what many call the play's great weakness — its unending series of unlikely coincidences — and turned it into a reflection of the aging Shakespeare's spiritual yearnings — what the director has called "God through the synchronicity of events." Although people may scoff at Cymbeline's many coincidences, Mr. Donnellan is convinced that "when [it] happens in our own lives, we don't tend to laugh. It's slightly reassuring and terribly frightening all at the same time."

Of course Shakespeare's final scene painstakingly sorts out all the mistaken identities in a way that is often played for comedy, given the scene's considerable strain on credulity. But Mr. Donnellan sees such tactics as facile and untruthful and, instead, plays the scene at face value with absolute sincerity. It's an approach that some have called "radical," but it underlines the themes of redemption and forgiveness at the heart of the play. As Mr. Donnellan put it, "Part of love is having to continually recognize and re-recognize the person that you love" (a notion beautifully underscored by the director's idea to have the same actor double as Posthumus and Cloten).

A difficult play, but in these hands I trust it will not be boring.

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