If you’re looking for a strictly traditional “King Lear,” you won’t find it in the Lumina Studio Theatre production, now having a sadly short run at Silver Spring Black Box Theatre. However, if you’re in quest of a wonderfully acted and directed production that tears at your heartstrings, this is it.
Not sure why the name has been shortened, but “Lear” started out looking to me something like “Pippin” or “Joseph’s Technicolor Dream Coat,” with garish costumes and rock music.
… if you’re in quest of a wonderfully acted and directed production that tears at your heartstrings, this is it.
To be honest, I didn’t pick up on director David Minton’s concept of Lear as corporate giant in the “bright shiny culture” of the 1980s until I read about it in his very thoughtful program notes. But no matter. Shakespeare is Shakespeare, especially when it’s as well done as this production is. Minton and his talented multigenerational actors have been true to the compelling language, strong characterization, and – except for a few moments of humor – pathos of “King Lear.”
The cast proves the old axiom that there are no small parts, only small players. Even those with the fewest number of lines and the least stage time seem fully committed.
As the tormented and foolish king, John O’Connor is younger than is usually cast in the role, which makes his descent into madness a little less believable at first. His madness is also perhaps less hysterical than it is often played. But once the descent to it begins, he moves and saddens you deeply.
As Goneril and Regan, Lear’s two faithless daughters who trick him into believing they love him, Kelly O’Connor and Andrea Weeks are both attractive and terrifying, especially the violent Goneril.
So is Ian Blackwell Rogers, as the bastard (literally and figuratively) son of Gloucester, who brings much of the tragedy into play as he plots against his brother, Edgar, and romances both married women. Yet, he is also touching in his deathbed penitence.
Molly Hickman, as Cordelia, is dressed like a peacock when the play opens, a choice that’s hard to understand because it is the opposite of her character. The honesty of the character shines through her performance.
Brian Monsell is a standout as Gloucester, who, like Lear, is fooled by one son and mistreats the other. We can almost feel the physical pain imposed on him after he is blinded by Cornwall.
Robert Wiser portrays the Fool like a hillbilly – almost out of sync with the rest of the characters, yet effectively provides the only moments of levity.
As Edgar, Keith Anderson has a complex role – feigning madness for a time, showing tenderness and finally violence toward his ruthless brother. He does well.
Brad Sperber’s conscience-stricken Albany and Jordan Friend’s ruthless Cornwall make a perfect contrast to one another.
There are moments when the play seemed to lag, but it may also be that the mind shuts off a bit to defend itself from the onslaught of bleak events.
Dianne Dumais and Rain Greifer did the costuming. I admit that I found the frequent changes of the women – gorgeous though their clothes were – a little distracting. But again, if you just listen to the lines and watch the emotion onstage, and it soon becomes unimportant.
Jim Porter designed and built the set. Ron Murphy is the video and sound engineer, and Jeff Struewing is the props master.
Lighting is essential to the play, especially in the storm scenes; Dylan Uremovich designed it. Wendy Lanxner is music director.
My one caveat with the production was the especially graphic violence. But Jonathan E. Rubin is to be commended for achieving realism.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 45 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: Graphic violence and adult situations.
There are two more performances: 27, and 28, at 7 p.m., at the Black Box Theater, 8641 Colesville Road, downtown Silver Spring. For information and tickets, call 301-565-ACT1 (2281), or click here.