The Shakespeare Theatre Company has prepared a valentine for Washington, its premiere of William Shakespeare's romantic "Cymbeline." Director Rebecca Bayla Taichman ("Twelfth Night") returns for this magical story of forbidden love, mistaken identities and a magic potion. The cast is headed by Gretchen Hall as Imogen, the daughter of King Cymbeline, and Mark Bedard as her husband, Posthumus, the orphan raised by the king. Both Hall and Bedard have numerous Shakespeare credits, Bedard as a frequent performer with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival during the past four years and Hall with training at the British American Drama Academy in London and Oxford and with the Continuum Company of New York University Graduate School in Florence, Italy.

'Cymbeline' by William Shakespeare

If you go
» Where: Lansburgh Theatre
» When: Through March 6
» Info: $37 to $88 at

Hall occasionally balances her stage work with modern television shows such as "Gossip Girl," "Law & Order" and "Lipstick Jungle," but her heart belongs to the past.

"I've always been drawn to classical characters," she said. "Because I'm very tall, I never longed for ingenue roles. My mother, sister and I roamed around the house quoting Shakespeare, and my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Gray, helped me find a way to come out of my shell and become different people onstage.

"Imogen is a very innocent girl in some ways, but her innocence is challenged when she goes on her journey. I'm playing her to be filled with love and to encounter the people she meets by being positive instead of negative. The setting is neither modern nor traditional, but more fairy-tale. She wears a beautiful white dress, just one of the magical aspects that are exaggerated in many ways.

"The design of this production is really stunning, from the costumes, set design and sound design to the lighting. Our rehearsal space was small, so when we finally went onstage, we were astounded by the boldness of the visual aspects and how they make the play pop."

Bedard has re-created himself from football jock to a Shakespeare enthusiast who dabbles in TV commercials and modern musicals for variety. The more Shakespeare roles he performs, the more he loves every single one, whether comic or tragic.

"I especially like the challenge of playing Posthumus and I admire him for what he's been through," he said. "Even though he was raised in the king's court as a weird anomaly, he learned fast and shows great fortitude after being banished. Every other character talks about his great qualities, yet all the audience gets to see are his mistakes.

"I love Rebecca's work and am so happy to be part of this production. I just came back from Oregon, where she directed me in 'She Loves Me.' Now she has made 'Cymbeline' as timeless as possible, like telling a fairy tale to a little girl. I want people to discover what a great play this is."