Theatre Mirror Reviews - "King Lear"

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note: entire contents copyright 2012 by Richard Pacheco

"King Lear"

Reviewed by Richard Pacheco

Trinity Repertory opens its 2012-2013 season with a stunning and memorable performance of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Sparked by a brilliant performance by Brian McEleney in the title role, the performance is sheer magic. It features a spectacular exploding set and torrential rain on stage

. The Shakespeare tale of rampant ambition and familial betrayals and love is non stop intensity that catapults through nearly three hours of memorable theater. It is robust and relentless. From the gut wrenching scenes of Lear’s laments to blazing battles, moments of male nudity and a gut wrenching unsettling scene where Gloucester has his eyes plucked, it is riveting and compelling.

Brian McEleney propels it all with a vibrant, brilliant and unforgettable performance as the king, driven into madness by betrayal and victim of ambition and his own desire to be adored by his daughters. Mr. McEleney is poised and perfect as Lear. He delivers an emotionally packed and thrilling performance. His Lear suffers and churns with emotions as he watches the results of his own actions, rewarding two daughters, expelling the third, who truly loves him. It is disturbing and true to the heart, emotionally effective.

Christie Vela is devious and relentless as the eldest daughter Goneril. She lusts after her father power, ruthless determined to do anything to achieve it. Ms. Vela is pure venom in the role, insincere and sweet when it serves her purpose, callous and determined when it does not.

Anglea Brazil is equally wonderful as Regan, Lear’s second daughter. Like her elder sister she too craves power and to replace her father by whatever means necessary. Ms. Brazil delivers a poised and slithery performance as the ambitious second daughter.

Abby Sedgeworth is Lear’s youngest daughter, who truly loves him but will not satisfy his ego on his birthday by exaggerating her love for him. When she refuse to do s, he is enraged and gives her none of his kingdom, setting in motion dark events and violence. Ms. Sedgeworth is a delight as the loving, sincere daughter.

Joe Wilson Jr. is wining as Goneril’s husband, the Duke of Albans. Despite being loyal to his wife, he is a man with a conscience.

Stephen Berenson is comic pleasure as the Fool.

Phyllis Kay as the Earl of Gloucester is winning as a person with morals and high standard in the face of rampant oppression and injustice. Ms. Kay is delicately nuanced in her performance giving a wide range of emotional truth and vitality. Her moral conflict is palpable and intense.

Steven Michael Walters as her son and heir Edgar is brisk and persuasive in the role as he squirms his way through betrayals and convolutions which threaten his very life.

Lee Trull is gripping as his illegitimate and scheming brother, Edmund. Mr. Trull is sheer slipperiness in his political manipulations and contortions. He is polished and slippery as this Machiavellian manipulator.

Hassan El-Amin as Kent is the epitome of the dutiful supporter. He is loyal and determined in a riveting performance.

Fed Sullivan Jr. as Oswald, Goneril’s steward is a delight as a faithful servant wth few moral qualms.

There is strong support coming from Chamblee Ferguson as Regan’s husband, the Duke of Cornwall, Grant Chapman as the King of France, Drew Ledbetter as the Duke of Burgundy, Brandon J. Vulcovic as the herald and Alston Bornw as Curan.

The entire cast is a wonder as good if not better than most of what I saw at the Royal Shakespeare Company in London.

Director Kevin Moriarty delivers a well honed production with endless vitality and nuance. He entwines the cast with finesse and passion.

Michael McGarty’s set is resourceful and simple at the same time. From the simple décor to the palace to the collapsible walls to make way for the stormy rain scenes, it is effective and impressive.

Craig Handle’s fight choreography is stunning. The large battle scene moves with the elegance of a ballet and the fierceness of any battle. The individual fights are just as effective and impressive.

They received a well deserved standing ovation to a delicious and magnificent evening of theater. It is a must see performance.

"King Lear" is up through Oct. 21. Tickets are $28-$68. Call 351-4242, or visit

"King Lear" (till 21 October)
@ 201 Washington Street, PROVIDENCE RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide