Review by Danny Gaisin
[Cordelia]- “Nothing my Lord”; [Lear] -Nothing? [Cordelia] -”Nothing”. [Lear] “nothing will come of nothing, speak again”.
This pithy dialogue from Act I, scene I of Shakespeare’s KING LEAR foretells the tragedy that not only befalls its two protagonists, but the play’s parallel study of Gloucester and his offspring. Unless you, dear readers grew up in a mirror image of ‘Father Knows Best’ or another saccharine sitcom of the 60’s; “Lear” will touch home! Photo courtesy of David Hou
Stratford’s artistic director Antoni Cimolino masterminds staging this powerhouse drama and his touch is both eloquent and delicate. He leaves the almost histrionic vocal moments & scenes to his team of thespians that are non-pareil interpreters. The Festival Theatre’s thrust stage is almost bare except for strategic props so it is the acting & interacting that holds the audience’s attention.
A brief plot recitation (just in case). Lear, the aging King of early 17th c. England, decides to bequeath his territories among his three daughters Goneril -married to Duke of Albany; Regan who is Mrs. Duke of Cornwall & Cordelia, who is being suitor-ed by the Earl of Kent & the King of France. Each daughter is given an opportunity to verbally ass-kiss his highness in order to receive the inheritance. Youngest Cordelia states nothing but the obvious; Lear is P.O.ed and cuts her off. Kent thus dumps her too. Lear deteriorates & intends to alternatively crash with the ‘sisty-uglers’ who really want nothing more to do with him. He ends up with Cordelia and both die. Siblings Goneril (suicide) & Regan (poison) also end up dead.
Plot two deals with Gloucester and sons Edgar & the illegitimate Edmund. Eddie #2 isn’t thrilled with his status and by means of a forged letter, gets Edgar in serious doo-do. Edmund then betrays papa, bringing about his Dad’s death. He also gets intimately involved with a Lear offspring. What a man, we thought Iago had cojones! Confused? Seeing LEAR is one’s comeuppance for dozing through Eng. Lit. 101.
The pivotal role of Lear is potently played by Colm Feore and he runs the emotional gamut from arrogance to a humbleness that gleans audience empathy. His interpretation brought on mental images of numerous people this writer knew over my seven decades. Feore must have strong genes because Maev Beaty; Sara Farb & Lilsa Repo-Martell all hold their own with their father’s character exponent. Gloucester is portrayed by Scott Wentworth reprising his previous Feore connection in ‘Julius Caesar’. Wentworth seems consistently able to permeate every character he represents. His sons are Evan Buliung & Brad Hodder as Edgar & Edmund. Both bring intensity to their personas including alter egos.
In support roles, Stephen Ouimette seems to delight in delivering his ‘Fool’s best lines, including some astute tongue-in-cheek philosophies and truisms. Goneril’s servant, ‘Oswald’ is Thomas Olajide who doesn’t die because of a talent for avoiding the aforementioned doo-do.
KING LEAR is a difficult play, to perform as well as to witness. Given the theatre’s layout, those seated nearest stage-left and right may miss some of the dialogue. Therefore, plot pre-cognizance is seriously beneficial. But even the stances and body language of the protagonists conveys the progress (or deterioration) happening on stage.
Stratford traditionally mounts dramas that stay with audiences. Think “Anthony & Cleopatra”; ‘Superstar’; “Titus Andronicus” etc. 2014 will surely be the season of King Lear, and he’s at the Festival Theatre.