Frank Langella as King Lear

NewYorkTheater
Broadway Star
joined:1/23/10
Frank Langella as King Lear
Posted: 1/17/14 at 12:17am

Frank Langella carries this King Lear. He so effectively plays an old man who loses all his power that you never doubt Langella’s power as a performer, and, though he is 76 years old, you come away marveling at how well he can impersonate somebody so old.
King Lear Review: Frank Langella at BAM

aaronb
Broadway Star
joined:6/3/12
Frank Langella as King Lear
Posted: 1/17/14 at 05:23pm
I was really disappointed.

"I fully expected to love Frank Langella’s King Lear. After all, aging movie stars may be even better candidates for the role than those versed in Shakespeare. Saturated for decades in shallow adulation, applauded for their every move, they have far more to fear in losing what Mr. Langella calls our 'metaphorical crown[s],' the 'props we all use to justify our existence.' Moreover, with his powerful gravitas, his Nixon jowls, and his cue ball head sparsely decorated with sprouting white hairs, Mr. Langella certainly looks the part. But there is something essential that he has missed about his king. 'If you’ve lived your life as he has,' he says of Lear, 'from the moment of brith, having the crown put on your little head and every wish and every command of yours indulged in—you cannot understand real love.' It is possible that he misspoke with 'true love,' but the Lear Shakespeare wrote overflows with it. He is crippled by love, and unlike Othello, he loves not wisely but too well. The fact that his love is narcissistic does nothing to invalidate it, and it is precisely this excess of feeling that makes Edmund (Max Bennett), the man with no feeling, so effective a foil. 'Which of you shall we say doth love us most?' Mr. Langella asks after shuffling onstage, and the question is posed routinely, as if he were a CEO opening a meeting with his board. Surely, Lear thinks he knows how his daughters will answer, but that does not mean he would be bored in listening to them. This opening proves indicative of Mr. Langella’s entire performance, which is inexplicably mute and unaffecting, eliciting little response no matter how loud he roars or how heavily he sobs."
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PB ENT.
Broadway Legend
joined:6/11/03
Frank Langella as King Lear
Posted: 1/17/14 at 06:40pm
Sorry to hear you were disappointed with Langella's performance. I've admired his work for a long time. Do you think it's because of directional decisions or was he just not good in the role? He's such a polished actor.
www.pbentertainmentinc.com BWW regional writer "Philadelphia/South Jersey"
aaronb
Broadway Star
joined:6/3/12
Frank Langella as King Lear
Posted: 1/17/14 at 09:52pm
I love Frank Langella and think he is a terrific actor, so yes, I would suspect it has something to do with the direction.
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NewYorkTheater
Broadway Star
joined:1/23/10
Frank Langella as King Lear
Posted: 1/18/14 at 05:25am
We usually agree, Aaron, but I thought Langella was far better than the recent Lears I've seen -- Sam Waterston, certainly, but even Derek Jacobi. If you're quoting interviews he's given to slam his performance, I feel that's a bit unfair. First of all, he could have been misquoted. And in any case, he might not be aware of, much less in control of, the effect he has on the audience.
In any case, I do agree that the rest of the cast was a disappointment. Is there a reason why you didn't mention what you thought of Isabella Laughland's performance? She was the worst Cordelia I've ever seen. Laughland indeed.
iluvtheatertrash
Broadway Legend
joined:11/9/04
Frank Langella as King Lear
Posted: 1/18/14 at 05:33pm
Langella is my favorite actor. But I too was disappointed. I marvel at his stamina, which is certainly commendable. He wasn't bad, or even weak. He just wasn't... Well, he wasn't as magnificent as I thought he'd be.
"I know now that theatre saved my life." - Susan Stroman
wexy
Broadway Legend
joined:9/19/05
Frank Langella as King Lear
Posted: 1/18/14 at 07:02pm
I was disappointed as well. Thought that the women were week and in row Q of the orchestra had trouble hearing them...
'Take me out tonight where's there's music and there's people and they're young and alive.'
aaronb
Broadway Star
joined:6/3/12
Frank Langella as King Lear
Posted: 1/18/14 at 09:26pm
I understand what you mean, but I quoted something he said in an interview to make a point about the experience of his performance--if he thought Lear didn't understand love but still managed to move me, I wouldn't really care.

And you're right, Isabella Laughland was pretty weak; there was no particular reason I didn't mention it.
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