by H.P. Costello
Jim Edmondson has directed a production of King Lear that is an unqualified triumph. A very complex play is made completely understandable. The pace of the action is gripping from start to finish. The incomparably rich language comes through with utmost clarity, which is underscored by the spare staging.
Jonathan Dalyís portrayal of Lear is extraordinary. It is difficult to decide which aspect of his character is most effective: the main enraged lover of flattery who disowns his beloved youngest daughter Cordelia; the mad man who nevertheless understands quite well how the world works; or the redeemed man of wisdom (my favorite) who is reconciled with Cordelia in genuine humility. All are convincing. The first storm scene, being concerned for the Fool, brings Lear the revelation that throughout his reign he had never taken sufficient care of the poor. (Too bad our own politicians couldnít have a like experience.)
Christopher Gersonís loving, afflicted (cerebral palsy?) Fool demands special recognition. From the first scene it is clear there is a special bond between the Fool and Cordelia, played by Stephanie Lambourn. Neither desert Lear even in the most extreme circumstances. The Fool pushes Lear to the madness that restores his true sanity.
Gloucesterís bastard son, Edmund, played by Andrew Carlson, is a thoroughly charming villain, who is always amused at his ability to manipulate people for his own advantage. Whatever else may be said against him, he is definitely not a sore loser. Doug Scholz-Carlson, Gloucesterís legitimate son, Edgar, has a more difficult role. He plays at least four different voices, the most startling of which is Poor Tom, the Bedlam beggar. His beggar is an equal mix of pathetic wretch and dangerous physicality.
Michael Fitzpatrickís Gloucester, a superstitious man of the world, who yet has enough substance to be redeemable, is played with the strength weíve become accustomed to from Fitzpatrick.
Goneril and Regan, played convincingly by Tarah Flanagan and Kim McKean, are a combination of rationalistic self-interest and animal sexuality. Both see their natural mate in Edmund, the bastard. Flanagan is the more intellectual, cool-headed figure of evil, while McKean is reminiscent of women in recent TV action dramas in her execution of physical violence.
Learís dedicated servant Kent, played forcefully by Chris Mixon, provides a stark contrast to Gonerilís steward Oswald. While both are faithful servants, their loyalty is quite different. Although Oswald cannot be bought, despite Reganís trying hard to do so, he merely panders to all of Gonerilís desires. On the other hand, Kent corrects Lear when needed, even at the risk of his own life. He is the just servant concerned about the true well being of his master.
If a person is interested in the human condition, and who isnít, he or she should not miss this production of King Lear. Among many other lessons it shows that without a doubt total self-interest inevitably results in self-destruction. While the play contains egregious suffering and violence, it would not be wrong to term Learís final condition as blissful. Death is inevitable, but what awareness accompanies that experience. The look on his face at his final utterance, ďLook there, look there!Ē, is almost ecstatic. It is as if he were being reunited with Cordelia beyond this world.