Review: KING LEAR at Shakespeare Theatre Company

This production stars Patrick Page of Hadestown as King Lear.

By: Mar. 03, 2023
Review: KING LEAR at Shakespeare Theatre Company
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King Lear is known as one of Shakespeare's most influential and bloodiest plays. Lear is known for his descent into madness, and it takes a very seasoned actor to play such a tremendous role. In Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of King Lear, Patrick Page, known for his role in Hades in the musical Hadestown, plays Lear. It's a role perfectly made for Page, but besides the perfect match, King Lear's casting is also phenomenal. STC's King Lear is fresh and breathtaking, and even funny. Yes, there is even humor in the tragedy.

In this Shakespeare tragedy, King Lear (Patrick Page) is dividing his land among his daughters, Regan (Stephanie Jean Lane), Goneril (Rosa Gilmore), and Cordelia. However, he becomes displeased with Cordelia (Lily Santiago) and sends her off to be the wife of the King of France. He also threatens Kent (Shirine Babb), and forces her to go in disguise. Meanwhile, Edmund (Julian Elijah Martinez), the son of Gloucester (Craig Wallace), tells his brother Edgar (Matthew J. Harris) to go into hiding to avoid the "wrath" of their father. With Cordelia out of the picture. Goneril and Regan begin to think that their father is going insane, and they plot to monitor him. King Lear is ultimately a tale of the relationship between fathers and sons, and daughters and fathers.

In STC's King Lear, the audience is introduced to a world in which aviation rules and war seem to always be on the horizon. Page's first entrance on stage features him donning a fur coat fit for an aviation king. Everyone carries a knife (both metaphorically and physically). Torture isn't below anyone. An intense scene between Gloucester, Regan, and her husband in a wine cellar turns into a mess of blood, tears, and shouts of revenge. The military's power is influential within King Lear's political sphere. There is a scene where both warring sides witness the plummeting of missiles and fires reflecting off of tents (a great presentation of Aaron Rhyne's projection design). With a dream production team (sound designed by Christopher Shutt, music composed by Michael Bruce, lighting design by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, and set design by Daniel Soule), the audience falls into this world, and audibly gasps as they witness Lear's madness and the atrocities of this society. The costumes, designed by Emily Rebholz, transcend time and space, creating a portrait of each character based on their status within Lear's circle.

The cast of STC's King Lear features a stellar cast who embodies their characters with ease. Page's King Lear is terrifying and endearing at the same time. Wallace's Gloucester is as fantastic as Lear's foil. Martinez's Edmund is endearing, even though he transforms into a villian against his own father and brother. Although she makes a brief appearance, Santiago's Cordelia is charming and reflects the true nature of the youngest sister. As the play progresses, Lane's Regan and Cornwall (Yao Dogbe) thirst for blood and lust are terrifying. Babb's Kent and the Fool (Michael Milligan) along with Harris' "Poor Tom" are a terrific trio for King Lear's journey through the storm. Whenever they are with King Lear, there is chemistry delivered with humor and wit.

STC's King Lear is one of the best Shakespeare productions that this reviewer has seen in a long time. Even if you aren't much of a Shakespeare fan, you don't want to miss out on the tension, drama, and humor of this remarkable production.

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15-minute intermission

Header photo caption & credit: Photo of Lily Santiago, Stephanie Jean Lane, and Rosa Gilmore in King Lear by DJ Corey Photography.

Shakespeare Theatre Company's King Lear runs from February 24, 2023 until April 8, 2023 at the Klein Theatre in Washington D.C. Tickets can be purchases here.


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