Fiasco Theater Will Perform William Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” on Feb. 2-4 in Duke’s Reynolds Theater

Fiasco Theater's rollicking rendition of "Cymbeline" will run Feb. 2-4 as part of the Duke Performances series
Fiasco Theater's rollicking rendition of "Cymbeline" runs Feb. 2-4 as part of Duke Performances' series

Duke Performances will present a critically acclaimed extended Off-Broadway production of Cymbeline, performed by Fiasco Theater of Brooklyn, NY, at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 2-4, in R.J. Reynolds Industries Theater in the Bryan Center on Duke’s West Campus. Cymbeline, King of Britain or The Tragedy of Cymbeline is a romance written by English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616), based on Celtic legends about the early British King Cunobelinus, as retold by Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1100-c. 1155).

According to Duke Performances:

“Founded in 2007, this six-person company is already renowned for its dynamic, actor-focused style and lapidary productions of Shakespeare, whose elaborately plotted romance Cymbeline sings out with utter clarity in Fiasco’s capable hands. Over a swift-moving 150 minutes, with plenty of witty music and dynamic action, the ‘lucid, modest performances let the comedy, poignancy, and unlikely magic surface’ ([according to The] New York Times)….

In Fiasco’s hands, "Cymbeline" becomes a wild ride of music, comedy, and drama (photo by Ari Mintz)
In Fiasco’s hands, "Cymbeline" becomes a wild ride of music, comedy, and drama (photo by Ari Mintz)

“[Cymbeline will arrive] in Durham after an acclaimed extended Off-Broadway run …. This will be the first time Fiasco’s Cymbeline has been produced outside New York, and is the only presentation currently planned for 2012.

“Since 2007, the young Fiasco Theater company has staged energetic productions of Shakespeare’s plays, including Twelfth Night and Two Gentlemen of Verona. Their production of Cymbeline just closed an 18-week run in New York’s Barrow Street Theater and received enthusiastic reviews. Ben Brantley of The New York Times calls it ‘the most truly enchanting Cymbeline I’ve seen. Exquisite.’

Cymbeline is the love story of Imogen [played by Jessie Austrian], daughter of the king [Andy Grotelueschen as Cymbeline], and Posthumus [Noah Brody], an orphan and commoner. With their romance condemned by the king, Posthumus and Imogen face deceit, subterfuge, and betrayal as they wind their way through the elaborate plot to realize their love.

In Fiasco’s hands, the play becomes a wild ride of music, comedy, and drama that keeps the audience on the edge of their seat.

“Directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, the production features Jessie Austrian [as Imogen], Noah Brody [as Posthumus and a Roman Captain], Paul L. Coffey [as Pisanio, Philario, Caius Lucius, and Guiderius], Andy Grotelueschen [as Cymbeline, Cloten, and Cornelius], Ben Steinfeld [as Iachimo, Arviragus], and Emily Young [as the Queen, a Frenchman, and Belaria].

“The company will be in residence at Duke for two weeks following their performance of Cymbeline. During that time, they will begin the work of setting Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, on the company; Fiasco will present their progress on Measure for Measure as a workshop reading on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 17th and 18th, at 8 pm in the Sheafer Lab Theater in the Bryan Center.

“In addition, the company will participate in a series of open-to-the-public and free artists-in-residence events. Full details regarding residency events can be found on Duke Performances’ web site [by clicking]”

In addition to directors Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, the Fiasco Theater production team for Cymbeline includes musical director Ben Steinfeld, vocal coach Cicely Berry, fight director Noah Brody, set designer Jean-Guy Lecat, lighting designer Tim Cryan, costume designer Whitney Locher, properties designer Caite Hevner, and stage manager Christine Lowe. The multi-paneled “fabulous trunk” employed during the play was designed and built by Jacques Roy.

In reviewing the Off-Broadway production of Cymbeline for The New York Times, Ben Brantley wrote: “I have never seen a Cymbeline as easy to follow as this one. For once, the play itself really is the thing. This plucky troupe credibly portrays incredible feats of derring-do; brings elaborate battle scenes to life, and organically blends music into the action. The lucid, modest performances let the comedy, poignancy and unlikely magic of Cymbeline surface gently and naturally.”

Writing in New York Magazine, Scott Brown raved: “The Fiasco Company brings joyful music, playful inventiveness and just an air-kiss of irony to Shakespeare’s mock-epic. In just under two hours, they remind us what theater, at its simplest and most powerful, is really for: the alchemical thrill of watching an entire world conjured into being out of sheer wit and will. [Cymbeline is] A small masterpiece.”

During "Cymbeline, actor/directors Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld (on floor) fence, while Jessie Austrian (background left) and Emily Young watch with bated breath (photo by Ari Mintz)
During "Cymbeline, actor/directors Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld (on floor) fence, while Jessie Austrian (background left) and Emily Young watch with bated breath (photo by Ari Mintz)

Fiasco Theater’s production of Cymbeline is a co-presentation of Duke Performances and Duke University Theater Studies ( The company’s residency at Duke University is made possible, in part, by a Visiting Artist Grant from the Council for the Arts in Duke’s Office of the Provost (, plus a grant from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation (

SECOND OPINION: Feb. 2nd Durham, NC Duke Chronicle preview by Caitlin Moyles:; Feb. 1st Durham, NC Independent Weekly mini-preview by David Fellerath:; and Jan. 30th Durham, NC interview with Ben Steinfield, conducted by Kimberly Ruskan:

Duke Performances presents Fiasco Theater in CYMBELINE at 8 p.m. Feb. 2-4 in R.J. Reynolds Industries Theater in the Bryan Center, 125 Science Dr., Durham, North Carolina 27708, on Duke University’s West Campus.

TICKETS: $22-$28 ($5 for Duke students and $10 for all other students with valid ID).

BOX OFFICE: 919-684-4444 or



STUDY GUIDE: (Utah Shakespeare Festival).





Cymbeline: (official web page).

Fiasco Theater: (official website).

The Play: (Wikipedia).

The Script: (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

The Playwright: (Wikipedia).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).