BWW Reviews: Seattle Shakes' KING LEAR Suffers Inconsistencies and Weak Choices
A Shakespearean classic directed by Sheila Daniels. Sounds like a dead lock winner right? Unfortunately Seattle Shakespeare Company's current production of "King Lear", while having some moments of power, ultimately left me wanting. Wanting for what? That's tough to say. There were so many little things needling me about the production that didn't quite work that they almost overshadowed what did. But ultimately it amounted to an inconsistency of pacing and performance that left me, like Lear, out in the cold facing the storm (such as it is but we'll get to that later).
It's really just a story of constant betrayal and bad decisions as Lear (Dan Kremer), who's getting up there in age, decides to parse off his land to his three daughters. But the division of his rule he turns into a contest as he tasks his daughters to try and outshine the others in their declaration of devotion to him. And while the elder daughters Goneril and Regan (Linda K. Morris and Debra Pralle) have no problem spouting off their love (however insincere), the younger Cordelia (Elinor Gunn) refuses to put her love into words. This infuriates Lear who banishes her, and divides her portion of the kingdom between the remaining two daughters. What then follows is a series of machinations and betrayals as the daughters, once in power, continually disregard their father's authority and plot against each other to take it all.
The show should be a buffet of back stabbing but there is so little intent as to who was backstabbing whom or why that I found it difficult to care. Plus the scenic design was so incredibly sparse that it almost felt forced as if it were trying to be clever which only yielded a lack of impression. For example, the scene changes were choreographed with a kind of frenzy as chairs, scaffoldings and (for some reason) buckets were hurled about the stage. But that frenzy only emphasized the lack of energy in the actual scenes. And the raging storm in which Lear stumbles as he rails into madness really felt like a minor spring breeze which left me less concerned for Lear's safety and sanity and more concerned that someone should fetch him a sweater.
As I said there are some good moments in the piece. Kremer's performance has some truly wonderful moments despite the lack of surrounding danger and his final moment with his daughter is palpable. Amy Thone turns in a fine performance usually reserved for men as the loyal but misunderstood Duchess (normally Duke) of Kent. Michael Winters shines as the deceived and dismissed Duke of Gloucester and his moments with his estranged and disguised son Edgar (Jorge Chacon) are lovely. Eric Riedmann shows off some stunning duplicity as the conniving Edmund. And Gunn manages some beautiful moments in her opening scene before her banishment but then disappears for most of the piece.
But then, that's what this piece had, moments. It kept springing up with little pockets of valiant efforts and strong performances that had no cohesive thread to tie them all together into a solid story. And that just left me with a feeling of MEH (which is the three letter rating I'm giving it) and a desire to get the three plus hours (yes, it's over three hours) of my life back.
"King Lear" from Seattle Shakespeare Company performs at the Cornish Playhouse through May 17th. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Shakes' box office at 206-733-8222 or visit them online at www.seattleshakespeare.org.