Monday, April 22, 2019

King Lear

As you probably already know, in the old days theatre critics wrote their reviews right after seeing the performances. In fact, as the shows ended, the critics ran up the aisles to maximize their writing time before deadline.

If it were still the old days, and if I had written my review of King Lear right after seeing it, I would have given it an excellent review. I was caught up in the glow of a Saturday night performance in good seats watching a play I love starring many actors I deeply admire.

But time has passed, and the glow is gone. I have had time to realize that, yeah, the sound and fury did signify nothing. Glenda Jackson was great fun, but, really, Lear shouldn't be great fun. I respected and enjoyed her performance, but she didn't touch me. I thought that Ruth Wilson was quite good, while Elizabeth Marvel was not at her best (far from her best, really). The third sister, Aisling O'Sullivan, shrieked her way through the show; she was terrible, but I appreciated her commitment. (And, yeah, the three sisters all had different accents; consistency was not a characteristic of this production.) Jayne Houdyshell and John Douglas Thompson were excellent, as Jayne Houdyshell and John Douglas Thompson always are.

But what play was everybody in? Some seemed to be in Shakespeare's actual Lear; some seemed to be in a star-turn Lear; some seemed to be in a satire of Lear; and still others seemed to be in a college version directed by a young person with more imagination than skill.

This is not the first time I've seen such a distinguished cast end up in such a jambalaya of a classic. In fact, the criticism "they all seemed like they were in different shows" has become common in recent years, particularly when the cast is star-studded.

Way back when, in the days of affordable Broadway, before directors decided that their ideas are more important than the playwrights', classics weren't events. Instead, they were solid productions, true to the writing, with cast members all in the same time period and speaking the same language. Many of these productions lacked big stars, but they were excellent. I miss them.

Wendy Caster
(3rd row center; $159)
Show-Score: 70

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