Theatre Mirror Reviews - "King Lear"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Larry Stark

"King Lear"

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Patrick Swanson

Production Design by David R. Gammons
Lighting Design by Ben Pilat
Fight Direction by Robert Walsh
Music Direction by Bill Barclay
Props by Elizabeth Locke
Assistant to The Director Jessica Fairwell
Assistant Stage Manager Elizabeth Ross
Stage Manager Adele Nadine Traub

Kent................Allyn Burrows
Gloucester.............Colin Lane
Edmund.............Benjamin Evett
King Lear...........Alvin Epstein
Cornwall........Michael F. Walker
Albany/Old Man...William Gardiner
Goneril.............Jennie Israel
Regan...............Paula Langton
Cordelia...........Sarah Newhouse
France/Chorus.......Gabriel Levey
Burgundy/Oswald......Bill Barclay
Fool................Ken Cheeseman
Curan/Chorus.........Matt Dickson

ALVIN EPSTEIN recently performed off-Broadway as Nagg in ENDGAME at the Ir ish Repertory Theater, Morrie in TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, and Firs in THE CHERRY ORCHARD with the Atlantic Theater Company. He made his New York debut in 1956 when he was named most promising new actor of the season by the New York Drama Critics' Circle. Subsequently, his Broadway and off-Broadway credits have included performing with Marcel Marceau, playing the Fool to Orson Welles' KING LEAR, creating Lucky in the American premiere of WAITING FOR GODOT and Clov in the American premiere of Endgame, the world p[remiere of Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin's WHEN THE WORLD WAS GREEN, Richard Rogers' NO STRINGS with Diahann Carroll and Richard Kiley, THE MADWOMAN OF CHAILLOT with Kim Hunter and Anne Jackson, THE THREEPENNY OPERA with Sting, THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH with Anne Bancroft and Estelle Parsons, and DYNAMITE TONIGHT! (for which he won an Obie Award). For twenty years he performed A KURT WEILL CABARET with Martha Schlamme on and off Broadway and on tour of the United States and South America, and he is again singing that repertoire with Beth Anne Cole in SONGS DEGENERATE AND OTHERWISE which won the New England Award for Best Cabaret performance. A founding member of of the Berkshire Theater Festival, Yale Repertory Theater, and the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.) and former artistic director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Mr. Epstein has directed over twenty productions (five at A.R.T. including the inaugural A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM in 1980) and acted in over a hundred (over fifty at A.R.T. including THE MISER, HENRY IV, HAPPY END, WOYZEK, DON JUAN, RICHARD III, THE WINTER'S TALE, HAMLET, THE THREEPENNY OPERA, IVANOV, and MARAT/SADE). He recorded Stravinsky's L'HISTOIRE DU SOLDAT with Melvyn Douglas and performed it on stage with Dianne Weist and on television with Jerry Orbach. He also starred in the television premiere of WAITING FOR GODOT opposite Zero Mostel and Burgess Meredith. Among honors awarded to Mr. Epstein have been the Brandeis University Creative arts Award (1966) the Elliot Norton Award for Sustained Excellence (1966) the IRNE Award for Best Supportng Actor (Shabelsky in IVANOV, 1999) the Torch of Hope Award, the Jason Robards Award for Dedication to The Theater, and the Spencer Cherashore Award for Lifetime Dedication to Not-For-Profit Theater.

Alvin Epstein has brought this rich theatrical experience, along with thirteen other excellent ACTORS' SHAKESPEARE PROJECT actors (8 of them also members of Actors' Equity), to Boston to perform KING LEAR for only three more week-ends.

Call Now [ 1(866)811-4111 ] for tickets because your grandchildren will want to hear your memories of this sublime theatrical experience every time they visit you.

The A.S.P. have committed themselves to exploring ever-new and sometimes unlikely playing-spaces, so in the B.U. Fine Arts Building (at the B.U.West stop on the B-Line) the audience is ranged along two sides of a hall with a huge round pillar in its center, and a marble staircase at one end. The floor is strewn with dark brown rubber chips, and Ben Pilat's lighting is always muted. Chances are your view of any actor or any scene may be obstructed in such a setting, but Director Patrick Swanson has seen to it that though you may not be able to see the speaker, not only will you hear the words, but like as not you can judge the action by the reactions other actors you Can see have to it. (Watching Ken Cheeseman as The Fool cry at hearing poor mad Lear broke my heart more than once.)

And there is a lot of "else" happening around this proud old man's slow crumbling into wisdom and death.
There's Benjamin Evett's Edmund --- bastard son of Colin Lane's upright but deluded Gloucester --- proudly posturing and speaking directly to the audience of his ambition, his crafty lies to ruin Doug Lockwood as his legitimate brother Edgar, then to play Lear's haughty daughters (Jennie Israel's Goneril & Paula Langton's Regan) and their husbands against one another. Their embrangled squabbling, their contempt for their powerless father, their oh so different husbands (Michael F. Walker as the bloodthirsty Cornwall, Willian Gardiner as his moral opposite Albany), and the war when their banished sister Cordelia (Sarah Newhouse) and her husband Burgundy (Bill Barclay) invade --- all that, and much more lovingly explored detail (like putting out Gloucester's eyes), swirls around the white-haired figure of the King (or ex-King, actually) who seems always at the center of everything. The show starts at 7:30 and, swift though it feels, covers a lot of engrossing territory. And at the very least the slow-motion war and the Edmund/Edgar duel, choreographed by Fight Director Robert Walsh, are as memorable as those last, quiet moments of Lear himself.

Shakespeare's three great tragedies are densely-packed novels in dramatic form, and the A.S.P. have given attention to every complication and detail in the multiple plots. This is a stunning experience by a company that seems to get better with every play they turn to.
And you have only three more week-ends to see them in action.



"King Lear" (29 September - 23 October)
Boston University College of Fine Arts, Studio 102, 855 Commonwealth Avenue, BOSTON MA
1 (866)811-4111

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide