Cymbeline

Ben Steinfeld, Emily Young and Paul L. Coffey from New York’s acclaimed Fiasco Theater bring their production of “Cymbeline” to Napa for three shows on April 23 and 24.

Gerry-Goodstein photo

Who doesn’t love celebrating a birthday?

You may think you feel old, but William Shakespeare’s got you beat. Commemorations around the world will honor the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death on April 23 – the date that marks the playwright’s birth (1564) and death (1616).

Thanks to Laura Rafaty and her nonprofit organization, NapaShakes, we’ll be joining that celebration right here in Napa Valley.

On April 23 and 24, for three performances only, New York’s Fiasco Theater brings their exclusive West Coast engagement of “Cymbeline,” Shakespeare’s epic comedy/romance. Buy tickets now at napashakes.org/tickets. For information, email info@napashakes.org.

What better way to appreciate Shakespeare’s genius than to see a live performance of one of his quirkier plays, onstage, at the historic Napa Valley Opera House? (Don’t worry, the chairs will be comfortable and yes, the action takes place upstairs in one of our most beloved, intimate venues for the arts.)

Here are my reasons for going. Join me.

— “Street cred”: the Fiasco’s inventive production has garnered critical raves and sold-out runs in New York. We have a unique opportunity to experience the best of the best in this Napa premiere.

— Not your parents’ Shakespeare: This young ensemble of six versatile actors resolves the twisted fates of 14 characters at lightning-speed, performing live music from a cappella to bluegrass;

— What’s not to like: Fiasco company members Jessie Austrian, Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld were asked “Why ‘Cymbeline’?” Their response: “The chance to take on an utterly transporting text, sing song, dance a jig, have a sword fight, play lovers, villains, fools, and have another sword fight, all before the intermission.”

— New dot-org on the block: St. Helena-based NapaShakes’ first foray into Napa culture bodes well for local audiences. There’s a solid track record of bringing world-class artistry and presentation trust. In December 2014, London’s Globe Theatre performed “King Lear” at the Lincoln Theater, followed by a return engagement this past November with “Much Ado About Nothing” (Barrel Room, CIA). NapaShakes’ annual “Globe on Screen” film series (Cameo Cinema), presented in digitally enhanced high-definition, makes you feel as if you are watching in London. And there’s a wait list to get in!

— Bottom line. Bringing Fiasco Theater to our community is an enormous financial undertaking, with ticket sales covering only a portion of expenses. I’ll be calling friends to join me, eating dinner downtown beforehand and, in honor of Shakespeare, sharing Yorkshire pudding for dessert. I believe that’s called downtown revitalization.

Evy Warshawski is a performing arts presenter and partner in E & M Presents, bringing Chris Perondi’s “Stunt Dog Experience” on Sunday, May 8, 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. For information, visit EandMPresents.eventbrite.com or call 707-224-4353.

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