The Porters of Hellsgate give life to an unheralded heroine in Shakespeare’s ‘Cymbeline’

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Shakespeare’s Cymbeline can almost be regarded as a clip show from his previous works. It borrows conventions and plot lines from his earlier plays, yet has a voice of its own, as if the Bard had found it by accident.

Set in pre-Christian Britain, Cymbeline (Debba Rofheart) is the name of the monarch, but the play is dedicated to Imogene (a thoughtful Cameron Kauffman), his daughter. She is strong and resourceful, yet does not yield her femininity or integrity. The fact that the majority of the characters that surround her do, gives her more potency and clarity as the protagonist.

Director Charles Pasternak imbued the production with a sense of the comedic without sacrificing structure. By switching gender for some of the cast, it lends the production a bit of the absurd, which works brilliantly. (Thomas Bigley almost steals the show as The Queen).

Rest assured that any Porters of Hellsgate production utilizes the stage in the utmost way, creative pragmatism is how they deliver engaging entertainment.

Shakespeare throws everything into the mix: a kingdom under duress, mistaken identities, wayward princes, et al. With Cymbeline, it is augmented with a female as the central character. The villain Cloten (Jesse James Thomas) is played with intended camp with great effect. Jono Eiland as Iachimo recites prose and verse as if he were born to. Cindy Nguyen has a natural charisma and stage presence that will bode her well for years to come.

This production succeeds by breaking convention.

“Cymbeline” is on stage through Sunday, October 14 at The Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center located at 11006 Magnolia Blvd. in North Hollywood. Visit PortersofHellsgate.com for tickets and information.

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