BWW Review: A True King Rises with KING LEAR at Elements Theatre
The truth be told, I have neither read nor seen performed Shakespeare's King Lear, and was therefore as unfamiliar with the plot and its characters as basically anyone can possibly be; I suppose it wasn't mandatory reading when I went to school, for what reason I cannot possibly imagine. Although, I have always loved a good play or musical with traces of a tragic story at its core - a plot that is both trying on the actors and audience and therefore simply beautiful in how you are compelled to react to something with so much depth and significance. Having just seen King Lear at the Elements Theatre Company, not only was I introduced to a new theater in addition to a play I always wished to learn more about, but in such a way that created both a wonderful first impression of and precedent for this - nay, any - future Shakespearean production I plan to see. Even though this show is one of the more tragic ones you are ever bound to see, it really is a true king of a performance to behold.
Shakespeare's King Lear comes to the Elements Theatre Company, being performed in the beautiful outdoor theater at the Church of the Transfiguration at Rock Harbor, now directed by Danielle Dwyer, CJ. This incredibly dark story, complete with an abundance of vicious characters who allow their lust for power to completely dehumanize them (and others), provides enough drama within its almost-three hours than I had ever anticipated. It plots the innocent of heart against the power-hungry vultures who are all tragically dealt the same fate; it is a story where the idea of retribution is brought about by the cruel hands of human beings who believe themselves to be gods amongst men, caring so little for any sort of fate that could possibly deal them what is so deserved of their malicious ways. It is a work so saturated with hate and conniving that it is difficult to find the light shed by those few momentously good acts which occur in this show; yet, what would Shakespeare be without all that?
To explain King Lear in a nutshell (and it helps to look both the synopsis and the incredibly helpful character guide depicted on the wall in the inner sections of the theater), the king of Britain chooses to relinquish his title and distribute the wealth of his kingdom amongst his three daughters; the daughter who is best able to show the most affection she has towards him will receive the largest share. Goneril and Regan win his favor with false flattery while the youngest (and King's favorite) Cordelia simply states her love without wishing to participate in this contest of "love." King Lear becomes so outraged by her actions that he not only disowns his youngest daughter yet then divides her share amongst the two others and their husbands. Lear is soon mistreated by the lot of them, forcing him to flee while the Earl of Gloucester, a nobleman of Lear's court, is give the false knowledge by his son Edmund that his other son Edgar wants to take his father's life. From there ensues so, so much more that I would ruin the ending if I continued further; let's just say that these characters, whether their eyes are gouged out, they die by the sword's edge or a number of other horrible ways only Shakespeare can bring full circle in such a masterful way, this really is quite the production to see.
As I mentioned before, this is my first experience with both the theater itself and this particular work of Shakespeare's, and I am more than happy that I was invited to see this show. Everything about this production is awe-inspiring, from the intricate yet natural looking set (kind of like the idea of a French garden) to the wonder of the audience actually feeling as though it is a part of the story being told because of both the proximity of the actors and the overall "feel" of the show, there really isn't anything the least bit negative to say about this production.
I was especially amazed by how talented a cast this is, and reading the program over further I discovered that these actors are indeed masters at their craft, having trained at the Royal Academy of Performing arts and the Royal Shakespeare Company, just to name a few. These actors and the extraordinary performance they gave really makes Shakespeare's words seem so easy to roll of the tongue, when in reality I can only imagine how much rehearsal goes into a production such as this - not only due to the stamina needed to get through a play of such length, but also how each actors stays in character so unbelievably well.
The costumes are perfect, the fight choreography is not only impressive but also has people worrying what would happen should an actor forget to duck while a sword is being horizontally swung, and the acting is honestly superb. Although there are too many people involved with this show to possibly list everyone, please know that this first experience of mine with Elements is really something that I will remember because of the theater's professionalism, the talent of those involved and how easy it is to see how much both cast and crew alike care for the making of a splendid production - one that people are bound to remember well. I highly recommend this to anyone who is either a fan of Shakespeare (or just of really fantastic, memorable performances in general), who has not yet ventured into one of Shakespeare's epic worlds or just truly wishes to see a performance of meaning that one can do absolutely nothing but enjoy - this one will not disappoint.
Shakespeare's King Lear began performances at the Elements Theatre Company, outdoors at the Church of the Transfiguration at Rock Harbor on August 12th and will continue thru August 21st. The performance schedule is as follows: this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8:00, with a special pre-show dinner at 6:00 p.m. on the 20th. Guest speaker Tina Packer, founding artistic director of Shakespeare & Company, will be the guest speaker before the August 19th performance, and August 18th is a special students' performance, offering free admission and featuring a 7:30 p.m. discussion with Artistic Director Danielle Dwyer, CJ. Tickets are $35 ($30 for seniors) or $65/$60 for dinner and performance and; they may be purchased at elementstheatre.org or by calling the box office at 508-240-2400. Please come and see a wonderful production, and enjoy the show!