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King Lear

a Drama
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 3738

SHOWING : July 08, 2010 - August 07, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

A father puts the affections of his three daughters to the test when he chooses to divide his kingdom amongst them, promising the largest piece to the one who "doth love us most." The tragic consequences of his arrogance take their toll, and King Lear finds himself stripped of his grandeur and all that truly matters. Part intimate family drama, part epic journey of the human condition, King Lear is celebrated as one of the greatest works of Western literature.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Sabin Epstein
Goneril Carolyn Cook
Gloucester Allan Edwards
Oswald Neal A Ghant
Fool Chris Kayser
Cordelia Park Krausen
Cornwall Brian Kurlander
Edmund Daniel May
Lear Tim McDonough
Kent Allen O'Reilly
Regan Courtney Patterson
Albany Brad Sherrill
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REVIEWS

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Like Flies to Wanton Boys
by Dedalus
Thursday, August 5, 2010
5.0
Earlier this year, I took to task Shakespeare Tavern’s “King Lear” for failing to find the emotional core of the play, the passions that drive both Lear and his adversaries. Now, Georgia Shakespeare freezes the Oglethorpe stage with a cold anger that makes us forget the swirling heat storm just outside the doors. This is a “Lear” that proudly wears its heart on its sleeve and then proceeds to tear it asunder as if it were the delicate wings of a fly in a wanton boy’s hands.

Lear is a king in a pre-Christian England, raging against the age that has sapped his strength and his mind. He is a cruel figure who commands both respect and bitter hatred. He recognizes that his days are numbered, and decides to dispense with his duties before they dispense with him.

But he is also in need of assurances, and, in his present state, cannot discern between honest expressions of duty and fawning expressions of flattery. Accordingly, he banishes those who would protect him and trusts himself to those who would erase him.

But you know all this. “King Lear” is one of the most often-produced, often-studied plays in the Shakespearean canon, and this is the fourth time since 2008 that I’ve written of it. The question on the table is does this particular production do it justice?

The answer is a resounding “YES!” Tim McDonough tears into the role like an angry dog, using his imposing height to channel his rage against the uncaring heavens. He is fearsome and fragile, collapsing into a concave frame of madness as the storm rages around him. And, at the shattering conclusion, he finally lets his massive grief rip his life into its final rest. This is a Lear of constant movement, of constant action, of constant rage. Yet it is tempered by enough tenderness and fits of wit that it isn’t a monolithic rant so much as a full-blown portrait of a tragic king at his final extreme.

Director Sabin Epstein has set the piece in an alternate 1930’s Europe, a militaristic ethos punctuated by sadistic violence and lethal plotting. A chained-link fence topped by barbed wired encloses the action in a metaphoric prison constructed from the jagged edges of Lear’s past cruelties and present lapses. As Lear’s uniform is stripped from him, his scheming daughters grow ever more rigid in their dress and their manner. It is, as he wanted, a true transfer of power and authority, and he is about to be trampled under its jackbooted heel.

As Goneril and Regan, Carolyn Cook and Courtney Patterson are adequately heartless and cruel. Better still, their outrages against their father seem genuinely motivated by perceived (and unspoken) outrages of his own against themselves. Brad Sherrill and Brian Kurlander bring a boatload of individuality to their respective spouses, Albany and Cornwall. Park Krausen brings her normal skill and personality to Cordelia, making her as interesting as her elder sisters, as strong when pushed to the wall.

The Gloucester sub-plot makes a perfect counter-melody to the primary story. Allan Edwards is a stalwart and randy peacock Duke, proud and strong, but pitiable when confronted with his ultimate betrayal. As bastard son Edmund, Daniel May brings a delight in conniving, an almost Richard-III-esque joy in being the bad boy. He is the only character who directly addresses us in the audience, and he gleefully brings us into his plots, making us his co-conspirators. And as “good son” Edgar, Joe Knezevich is affecting and compelling, especially when he strips down and muddies up for his “Mad Tom” scenes.

This is a cast born for these roles, and they take to them like, well, like wanton boys to a swarm of flies.

Lear has sometimes been described as “more sinned against than sinning,” a characterization I’ve always been a beet leery of. He is, or should be, a cruel leader in a cruel time, a strong Lord who can only maintain his position by acts of strength, if not barbarity. Indeed, the affection for Cordelia is perhaps the anachronism, the humanistic flourish that makes Lear more than the sum of his times and culture. Once can only imagine the deeds that he performed to put him where he is, to engender the level of hatred that ultimately dooms him.

This has been a “Lear-friendly” time, with PBS broadcasting the wonderful RSC/Ian McKellan version last year, the Tavern’s mounting last spring, and with Christopher Moore’s wildly comic riff on the plot, “Fool,” still in the bookstores (in fact, WABE’s “Between the Lines” rebroadcast their “Fool” discussion the very day I saw this production). As such, I tend to be stricter with this play that with others. To be sure, this play lives or dies on how much we feel Lear’s pain, how much we recognize that his fate rests on a foundation built by his own deeds.

Georgia Shakespeare and Tim McDonough have given us a massively impressive Lear, a tower of cruelty and authority, a larger-than-life man raging against the dying light in his mind.

And, experiencing this story done this well left me completely breathless.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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Fine Tragic Acting
by uppermiddlebrow
Sunday, July 18, 2010
5.0
Strong acting pretty much all round, with Tim McDonough as Lear, Daniel May as Edmund, Chris Kayser as the Fool and very good work by Edgar and Gloucester, too.

This brought out, for example, Gloucester's sane desire for death as a powerful counterpoint to Lear's madness in reaction to realizing how badly he'd misjudged his children. And the Edgar-Gloucester 'Ripeness is all' dialogue about taking one's life was given enough time to register. Lear seems to be gaining wisdom in his madness in this interpretation - the Fool disappears once Lear doesn't need him for wisdom.

The women were only OK, occasionally inaudible from the balcony front row where we sat. The writing is thinner for the three sisters and if the male characters plumb the depths of their roles as they do in this production the women are bound to be overshadowed.

I felt the characters oddly almost never made connections with each other, maybe a deliberate directorial schtick? Except near the end, when Cordelia and Kent, Cordelia and Lear and the final survivors connect. Had a hunch they'd cut quite a bit - for example the Kent insult scene seemed short. This possibly allowed them to linger in the final act, letting Lear and others draw their conclusions with as much coherence as possible, a good choice.

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Popping Rivets
by playgoer
Sunday, July 11, 2010
3.0
The "King Lear" being presented by Georgia Shakespeare is well acted across the board. Most performances have their moments of special excellence, so no actors stand out except by stage time. The production's design ranges from the late 1800's to early 1900's in costumes, while the set (a ragged series of chain link fences) suggests a more recent time. The scenic highlight is the tempest on the heath, when bits of trash come wafting down from the flies, increasing in frequency as the torrent rages.

Sound does the production no favors. Laura Karpman's music is insipid, particularly as it drifts off at the end of the show. Sound effects are good, but they compete with the actors' voices. More challenging to the actors, though, can be the ever-present blast of the air conditioning units. Tim McDonough, as Lear, loses half his dialogue to the ambient sound, and that strikes a fatal blow to the production. Emoting, unaccompanied by coherent speech, gives you a mime show instead of a play.

Blocking contributes to the sound problems. Actors frequently are faced far in one direction or upstage, where their generally excellent projection can only do so much. Director Sabin Epstein's staging seems better suited to an arena stage, where the audience would be looking down from multiple sides, than to the shallow thrust stage at Oglethorpe University. Stage pictures may be pretty from a spot dead center of the audience, but the cheaper seats definitely get a lower-impact experience, with lots of blocked views.

Georgia Shakespeare performances can be riveting, given the high quality of acting talent across the board(s). In the case of "King Lear," a few of those rivets have popped out, leaving the structure weakened. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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