Solely not often in a lifetime of attending theater is there a manufacturing that so engages the minds, hearts, and senses of an viewers as to depart one practically breathless with awe. Anchored by Patrick Web page’s powerfully shifting efficiency within the title position, director Simon Godwin’s emotionally and bodily compelling manufacturing of King Lear at Shakespeare Theatre Firm does simply that.
This Lear is ready in an authoritarian state dominated, like many in our latest previous and current, by a household dynasty. Emily Rebholz’s costume design options fashionable navy uniforms. The sound design (Christopher Shutt) and projection design (Aaron Rhyne) give us sounds and pictures of jet plane, missiles, and assault helicopters. Scenic designer Daniel Soule supplies a movable panel-based set, initially “Lear’s Hangar,” a militarized setting of a form we’ve got seen from many up to date autocrats. From his desk there, the king delivers decrees dividing up his area as his daughters step as much as the microphone to hunt his favor. Michael Bruce’s dramatic, large-scale between-scenes music offers the manufacturing an epic soundscape.
Whilst Lear’s thoughts and psyche deteriorate, Web page instructions the stage, vocally and bodily, as conspiracies and storms swirl round him. Whether or not in piano or forte passages, Web page’s marvelous — operatic will not be too robust a phrase — bass talking voice is riveting. In Web page’s efficiency, Lear’s rage, confusion, lack of his very self, and horrible closing grief talk on to the viewers on the extent of the deepest human emotions.
The dominion is on the verge of changing into a failed state, because the failing state of its monarch opens the door to formidable energy seekers all too prepared to create dysfunction to attain their ends. In so doing they fracture households as they fracture society. Shakespeare’s trio of villains — Lear’s daughters Goneril (Rosa Gilmore) and Regan (Stephanie Jean Lane) and Edmund (Julian Elijah Martinez), son of the Duke of Gloucester (Craig Wallace) — are outlined by their will to energy. They’ll betray fathers and siblings, betray one another, and maim or homicide anybody who stands of their method.
In Martinez’s characterization, Edmund, who deeply resents being the “bastard” son of Gloucester, is commonly gleeful in his evil. Cruelty and deceit are helpful, to make certain, however they’re additionally fairly enjoyable.
Anybody who thinks that scary photographs are the particular province of horror film particular results ought to take note of the blinding of Gloucester, and the perverse pleasure in evil it shows. Lear’s impression on an viewers must be visceral, and on this second and others Godwin and the actors ship.
In search of, in addition to having fun with, energy is a widely known aphrodisiac. Costumed in patent leather-based leggings, Goneril and Regan overtly use their sexuality as a instrument, significantly in attempting to enlist Edmund to their more and more conflicting causes, in addition to a method of celebrating their triumphs. Their erotic and political appetites simply coalesce.
Goneril can be prepared to make use of her dominant persona to humiliate her seemingly weak husband, Albany (Jake Loewenthal), who’s much less helpful to her plans than she believes Edmund may be. In a pleasant little bit of bodily casting, Gilmore, particularly in heels, is taller than Loewenthal. Loewenthal clearly traces Albany’s character arc as he later turns into a frontrunner within the opposition to Goneril, Regan, and Edmund.
It’s typically troublesome to make virtuous characters as fascinating as villains, however each Shakespeare and this manufacturing succeed with Cordelia (Lily Santiago), who regardless of her early rejection by her father grows right into a navy chief who finally shelters him. Likewise, Edgar (Matthew J. Harris), initially seen and costumed as hapless nerd, then pressured right into a homeless exile as “poor Tom” by his brother Edmund’s machinations, survives his time within the wilderness to turn into a frontrunner. Along with Kent (Shirene Babb), who stays steadfast to Lear all through, Edgar and Albany type the nucleus of a revived society.
Because the Idiot, Michael Milligan very sweetly, with humor, tells Lear truths the king doesn’t need to hear or can not perceive. Along with Lear and “Tom,” he suffers via a horrible storm — the lighting (Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew) and sound design present a spectacular thundersnow occasion — sheltering within the wreck of a small plane fuselage, one other reminder of the wreckage of society ensuing from Lear’s incapacity and different characters’ lust for energy.
There may be a lot violence within the play, and battle choreographer Robb Hunter deserves credit score for the realism of determined knife fights that decide characters’ fates. Equally, intimacy marketing consultant Sierra Younger will get simply the proper tone within the mutual seductions of Edmund with Goneril and Regan.
In counterpoint to the play’s violence and darkness, there are moments of compassion, reconciliation, and tenderness, all tone-perfect. It’s simple to overlook that the play additionally consists of quite a lot of humor, a number of the laugh-out-loud selection. Godwin’s course and the timing of the actors are as spot-on within the humorous moments as within the extra quite a few weighty ones.
At one stage, King Lear is in regards to the dissolution and reconstitution of a society. The significance of King Lear’s political intrigue, betrayals, and murders however, the deeper that means of the play is in regards to the dissolution all of us face, as mortals anticipating the top. Not for nothing is “Nothing” an necessary phrase within the play. When, close to the play’s conclusion, Lear grieves over Cordelia’s physique, Web page’s “By no means…by no means” resonated with each fiber of my being.
There’s most likely a thesaurus of superlatives someplace, however this manufacturing, in each respect, would exhaust its sources. Anybody who misses this King Lear misses one of many peak theatrical experiences of a lifetime.
Working Time: Two hours 35 minutes, together with one intermission.
EXTENDED: King Lear performs via April 16, 2023, offered by Shakespeare Theatre Firm on the Klein Theatre, 450 seventh Road NW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($35–$190) could also be bought on-line or by calling the Field Workplace at 202-547-1122. Particular reductions can be found for members of the navy, college students, seniors, and patrons age 35 and underneath. Contact the Field Workplace or go to Shakespearetheatre.org/tickets-and-events/special-offers/ for extra info.
The Asides+ program for King Lear, together with Shakespeare Theatre Firm’s sometimes glorious dramaturgical materials, is offered right here.
COVID Security: All performances of King Lear are MASK RECOMMENDED. Detailed Security and Well being info is right here.