Play mixes old, new, adds lightsabers

Imogen, played by Lindsay Spear, must decide between two suitors in Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline.”

MONMOUTH – It’s high school in the ’80s, complete with all the teen angst, drama, romance, comedy – and lightsabers – and Shakespeare.

Shakespeare in the ’80s? That is the vision of director Ted deChatelet for Western Oregon University’s production of “Cymbeline,” opening May 25 and running through May 28.

What: Western Oregon University’s Department of Theater and Dance’s production of Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline.”

When: Wednesday (today), Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Rice Auditorium, WOU’s campus.

Admission: General $12; students $7; seniors $10.

The play is one of Shakespeare’s romances, deChatelet said, and not as well-known as others.

“They’re kitchen sink plays,” he said. “They have a little bit of everything in them. There’s romance. It’s dramatic, but it’s funny.”

Cymbeline starts out from an argument between two men, deChatelet said.

“One guy says, ‘I can seduce your wife,’” he explained. “The other one says, ‘No, you can’t.’ And they make a bet. That’s kind of the catalyst for the story.”

The two characters are impetuous and immature, deChatelet said.

“How will a contemporary audience relate to this?” he asked himself. “High school.”

The play has a cast of 22 with a wide range of experience, from professional actor and Western professor David Janoviak, who plays Cymbeline, to Edgar Lopez, who plays Belarus.

While it isn’t Lopez’s first time on stage, it is his largest role to date – something that came as a surprise to the sophomore.

“When I saw the part I got cast in, I said, cool, I don’t know, I thought I was just this regular hunter out in the woods,” Lopez said. “As I read it I was like, wow, this guy is in the whole second half of the show. I was not expecting it. I am very nervous, but, hey, just take it one step at a time.”

Lopez’s character has been wrongfully banished by King Cymbeline after false rumors were spread. In retaliation, Belarus kidnaps Cymbeline’s sons and raises them as his own out in the woods. His character is tough and mean, Lopez said, which is not like him at all in person.

“It’s been a total process for me to just be somebody that I’m not,” he said. “To be this tough guy on stage, scared for the most part. I’m literally scared, but I’m perceived as this tough guy. In the sections with my sons, I’m worried all the time. Don’t do this because this will happen.”

Off stage, Lopez is a calm and quiet type, he said. On stage, he will make a dramatic transformation – not just in acting his character, but in physical appearances, donning a Mohawk and warrior paint.

Lindsay Spear plays Imogen, the daughter of Cymbeline and a princess. While Belarus is more of an adult in the show, Imogen is all teen.

“She’s really funny and kind of torn up because a lot of things in her life has turned upside-down,” Spear said. “It’s just kind of, her husband’s banished and her father’s being really mean to her, so she’s dealing with a lot of grief at this time, but she keeps a dark humor about it.”

In teenage angst style, Spear’s character spends a scene listening to the Smiths and dancing in her room, feeling sad.

“It’s definitely something I had to explore because I don’t usually deal with grief in a dark-humor sort of way,” Spear said. “I did get to add some of my own humor, which makes her a little more awkward than she might have been.”

The play brilliantly mixes the classic plot twists and turns of Shakespeare set in an ’80s high school. Instead of sword fights, characters are armed with lightsabers. Even those who are not well-versed or comfortable with the language of Shakespeare will enjoy it, Spear said.

“We, as a group, have worked really hard to make the language very understandable to people who might not be as comfortable with it,” Spear said. “We hope the ’80s atheistic kind of makes it more clear, so people can relate to it even if they might not catch what every single line might be.”

The actors’ body language helps, too, Lopez added.

“It’s way different than what you might think of Shakespeare,” Spear said. “It’s definitely a fun take on the classic.”

“It’s Shakespeare plus ’80s plus lightsabers,” Lopez said. “You can’t go wrong.”

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