The traffic into the city was fine until we reached the parking garage. I think I spent more time trying to get a parking spot between two lots than I did driving 30 miles to get to the city.
King Lear is two or three on my list of favorite Shakespeare plays behind Hamlet and perhaps Macbeth. To me Lear is about altruism, I am excited to see how Barbara Gaines, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater Artistic Director and director of this production, attacks this show.
The set as you walk in is shiny with a regal red and gold Victorian style love seat in front of a shiny silver or aluminum wall.
The first act introduced Lear as pompous and full of himself. Bored as the King and fading in sanity he bequeaths his kingdom prematurely to his three daughters. His gift comes with a price as the daughters must regale their father with the amount of love that they have for the aged man. Regan and Goneral both indulge but his favorite and youngest Cordelia won’t be a party of such nonsense and basically tells her father that she loves him no more or no less than she always has. This angers Lear and he banishes her with nothing.
The Chicago Shakespeare Theater modernizes this production with modern weapons and furnishings, but keeping with the traditional and written text. Larry Yando plays Lear with such reverence and deference in the beginning of the play he reminded me of the title character in the television show “House.” His transformation to all powerful to feeble old man is really stunning and his choices are a masterclass in tactics. The direct opposite of Yando’s performance would be that of John Bynes as the Duke of Burgundy. Why do I even mention such a small part? Because everyone’s performance was so far above Bynes’. His choices were trite and his delivery was lazy in comparison to the rest of the cast.
The set seemed to be a reuse of the the set from Henry V that they produced a few months ago with a large wall that crashes to the ground for the second half of the play. It did serve its purpose but I expect more from Chicago Shakes when it comes to all aspects of the show. Overall director Gaines does a great job with this show. In the end it leaves you feeling in awe that it has to be a tragedy. That because Lear could not be as altruistic as his daughter, Cordelia she must die.
[button link=”http://plays.patrickstinson.com/category/a/”]Grade: A[/button]