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Review: LEAR By Marcus Gardley At Cal Shakes

Review: LEAR By Marcus Gardley At Cal Shakes

Marcus Gardley's modern verse update of Shakespeare's King Lear.

Lear

A world premiere translation and adaptation of Shakespeare's King Lear

By Marcus Gardley

Co-directed by Eric Ting and Dawn Monique Williams

Cal Shakes

Cal Shakes and Obie award winner Marcus Gardley present a deconstructed, modern verse updating of King Lear and it's a visually stunning, marvelously acted update that gives the Bard's story of betrayal, power and family legacy urgency and import for today's audience. And its verse is easily accessible, a huge plus.

No stone, cold, creaky castles here, replaced by Tanya Orellana's sleek, white fabric screened, three story set, beautifully lit by lighting designer Scott Bolman. Accompanied by a jazzy score by local legend Marcus Shelby and sung by a white gowned Black Queen (Velina Brown), Gardley sets the piece in Oakland circa 1969 where references to the Black Panthers, local cities, and eminent domain float through.

Review: LEAR By Marcus Gardley At Cal Shakes
The cast of Lear

Lear is a tortured soul, beaten down by betrayal and duplicity into madness and it takes a strong actor, both physical and emotionally to tackle the required arch. James A. Williams is more than up for the task - is Lear is both contemptible and sympathetic as he rages against his enemies and pleads to the gods for relief and solaced. It's a powerful performance supported by a talented ensemble cast.

The plot can get a tad complicated with typical Shakesperean casting of actors in multiple roles, gender bending and plenty of twisting allegiances and alliances. This is a tragedy of the highest order and a cautionary tale of families torn apart over wealth and power. Not exactly material we plebians deal with on a daily basis, but its intriguing watching the 1% implode, scratch eyes out and poison each other.

Review: LEAR By Marcus Gardley At Cal Shakes
L-R: James A. Williams (Lear) and Cathleen Riddley (Kent)

My local fave Jomar Tagatac has a juicy role as the bastard Edmund, dedicated to proving his worth through any duplicitous means necessary. The ensemble cast is equally evil: Michael J. Asberry (Gloucester), Emma Van Lare (Regan), Dov Hassan (Cornwall), Sam Jackson (Cordelia/The Comic), Leontyne Mbele-Mbong (Goneril), Cathleen Riddley (Kent), Kenny Scott (Albany), Jomar Tagatac (Edmund), Dane Troy (Edgar).

Under the excellent staging of co-directors of Eric Ting and Dawn Monique Williams, Lear invokes dark emotions of revenge, betrayal, and anger. Watching it play out onstage lifts it off our psyches and releases it to the ether. Like the storm that drives Lear mad, our storms can be expiated through this excellent production.

Lear runs through October 2nd, 2022. Tickets available at www.calshakes.org or 510-548-9666 (Tuesday-Friday from 2-6 p.m.).

Photo credit: Kevin Berne

Regional Awards


From This Author - Steve Murray

Steve Murray is a writer for Cabaret Scenes magazine, contributor to ForAllEvents and now BroadwayWorld. He started writing rock reviews for his college newspaper in the 1970’s, produced a va... (read more about this author)


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