Murder and jealousy abound in Shakespeare’s ‘Cymbeline’

By Liz Lebron

Love. Jealousy. Mistaken identity. Murder. Shakespeare brings them all together in “Cymbeline,” his classic comedy of errors. Although the play bears the king’s name, Cymbeline is focused on his daughter, Imogen, and the fallout from her marriage to the commoner, Posthumus Leonatus.

A scene of the current Black Box Theater production of "Cymbeline."
A scene of the current Black Box Theater production of “Cymbeline.”

The king wishes Imogen to yield an heir of royal blood, so he banishes Posthumous to Rome and places Imogen under house arrest. While Imogen schemes to reunite with her true love, the Queen plots to bring her son, Cloten, and Imogen together in matrimony to secure the throne.

Such a tangled web could only lead to one thing: trouble. The play’s many twists and turns culminate in the attempted poisoning of Imogen by the Queen and Cloten’s murder at the hands of the king’s long lost son, Guiderius. Cloten’s beheading may be grim, but Scarlett Taraschi, who played the role, ensured the audience had little sympathy for Imogen’s stepbrother. Her delightfully irritating portrayal of the arrogant fool almost gave the audience permission to sigh with relief when Cloten’s bloody, headless corpse, designed by Aiden Juge, appeared on the stage.

The Black Box Theater’s intimate setting was the perfect vehicle for bringing the audience along the many conspiracies taking place on stage. The actors could approach and speak directly to the audience; the queen, played by Ananda Espinal, made the audience laugh time and again with her casual murder plots and unapologetic power grabs.

One of the highlights of the production was a fight scene between Cymbeline’s men and Roman soldiers come to collect the British tribute on behalf of the Roman emperor. Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies Diego Villada, who joined New College this spring, choreographed the scene. In it, soldiers grappled at the audience’s feet and almost tumbled onto their seats.

Monica Cross directed the production, which featured Zachary Hanna in the title role, Bliss Aruj as Imogen, and Austin Gray as Posthumus.

— Liz Lebron is associate director of communications and marketing at New College of Florida.

Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 700 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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