Theater Review: King Lear
© The Flash List | January 26, 2013
© Photo by Mark Turek
Dallas Theater Center at Wyly Theatre
Play written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kevin Moriarty
As director Kevin Moriarty walked through the Wyly Theatre lobby, scenes from the four plays of Dallas Theater Center’s four-year Shakespearean cycle flashed on-screen … Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry IV, The Tempest, and King Lear. Amazed that each is so unique in style yet all written by the same playwright, Moriarty considered that the very same diversity exists in the work of film director Steven Spielberg whose movies range from Jurassic Park to Schindler’s List.
It is precisely this variety of selection that makes the world of art, music, theater, film, and literature so accessible and so exciting to navigate. And now, in a co-production with Trinity Repertory Company and as part of the Shakespeare for a New Generation program, Dallas Theater Center presents King Lear, one of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.
This deeply dark tale unfolds as the elderly King Lear retires from power by dividing his kingdom between two of his daughters as payment for their sugary flattery while disinheriting his third daughter for her blunt, pragmatic honesty. As the two succeeding daughters soon tire of alternately housing their frail and aging father thereby revealing that their declarations of love were disingenuous, a twisted scheme of betrayal begins to develop. Simultaneously, the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester devises a malicious plan to usurp the authority of his older legitimate brother in an attempt to steal the inheritance revenues. Family drama ensues on both personal and political levels as cruelty and selfishness are juxtaposed with compassion and forgiveness through moments of gentle retrospection interspersed with dramatic action scenes. The plot can certainly be followed by merely listening along; but if you aren’t familiar with the piece, we recommend reading over the full synopsis ahead of time to enjoy the show more fully.
Despite the play’s multifaceted story line, the production itself rests on the purer, simpler, foundational side of the theater experience. Neatly tailored costumes (contemporary in style), minimalist set design (featuring a couple of special effects including an onstage rainstorm), and a script featuring 100% Shakespearean dialogue (with only a bit of re-ordering) allow for little distraction from the heart of the work.
The story is the show; and it is well-told by a solid cast of actors including six members of Dallas Theater Center’s Brierley Resident Acting Company including Steven Michael Walters (Edgar), Lee Trull (Edmund), Christie Vela (a chilling Goneril), Abbey Siegworth (Cordelia), Hassan El-Amin (the Earl of Kent), and Chamblee Ferguson (the Duke of Cornwall) along with six members of Trinity Rep’s Resident Acting Company including Brian McEleney (brilliant in this role as a shuffle-footed, quivery-voiced, increasingly crazed and enraged King Lear), Stephen Berenson (as the Fool) Angela Brazil (Regan), Phyllis Kay (Gloucester), Fred Sullivan, Jr. (Duke of Oswald), and Joe Wilson, Jr. (as the Duke of Albany).
After a brief reprieve, expect the possibility of seeing more Shakespeare at Dallas Theater Center in the years to come as DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty has made it a personal goal to direct each of Shakespeare’s 37 plays. He’s directed 13 so far by The Bard (Moriarty’s favorite writer). King Lear runs through Sunday, February 17, 2013 at the Wyly Theatre in the AT&T Performing Arts Center with Red and The Odd Couple next on the agenda.
Feel free to take part in Dallas Theater Center's Come Early program, an informative 30-minute lecture that will be offered at no cost before every performance of every play at DTC. Beginning one hour before each show in the Wells Fargo Come Early Lounge, you can hear a member of the cast or artistic staff share the play's origin and context as well as insight into the creative process behind the production. You may also stay late afterward for the free, brief, post-show conversation with a cast member (sponsored by Dr Pepper Snapple Group) where you can interact with the artists and hear dialogue about various interpretations from other audience members.