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A CurtainUp Review
By Julia Furay
Just a few minutes into the play King Lear (André De Shields) explodes in rage and banishes his daughter Cordelia (Christina Sajous), beginning the tragic chain of events that lead to so many deaths and so much deceit. It comes as no surprise that Broadway vet and terrific dancer De Shields takes on the role of King Lear with intense physicality. His Lear is most moving and terrifying in his mad leaps around the stage and his frantic running from betrayal. Its an involving, fast pace performance,though De Shields doesnt manage to competely capture the heartbreak of Lears madness turning into stillness and grief.
De Shields is in good company. The rest of the cast matches his adeptness at graceful and meaningful movement, making for an incredibly physical production overall. It is a production that's both unflinchingly violent (during the fight scenes, beautifully choreographed by Denis Alessandria Hurd) and unapologetically sensual.
Lears two evil daughters, Goneril (Robyne Landiss Walker) and Regan (Zainab Jah), as well as Jones as Edmund, the ambitious bastard the women vie over, are particularly excellent. The trio just oozes amoral sexuality as they plot and plan against Lear and each other. Even the Fool (Ken Schatz) has a sexual side, although the wisecracking Schatz thankfully doesn't overdo it in this area.
The production is also physically beautiful. The large stage is set with a series of platforms and risers and it is one of the strengths of Presser's staging that the entire stage and all its levels arewell utilized. The actors roll underneath the platforms, walk on top of them, move them across the stage (while characters are in fact standing on them), and even topple them over for dramatic effect. The effect smartly contributes towards providing the needed sense of size and scope required. Even more beautiful are Kimberly Glennon's costumes, which are warmly colored robes and wraps reminiscent of the ancient Middle East.
ta a little over two hours, the production is a short one by Shakespeare's standards. This is no doubt due to the fact that the play is more choreographed than recited, with action almost always taking precedence over words. It's wonderful to have such an intense, creative two hours, but the cost of this decision is that some of the ins and outs of the plot aren't always quite as understandable as they could be. But what is always clear is that this remains a fascinating study of violence, cruelty, heartbreak, madness and betrayal.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide