Roll out the red carpet for 'king Lear'
Three Stars - A Royal Treatment
By Alina Larson -
Although it could have done with a bit more
energy, the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival offers a triumphant
production of ``King Lear." To be sure, the audience is not sinned
The key story lines in this famed tragedy examine the
relationship between parents and children. And the actors in this
production, which runs through Oct. 7 at the Gershwin Theatre in San
Francisco, do a fine job of conveying the play's emotional power.
King Lear, in an effort to relieve himself of the
responsibilities of the throne yet still maintain power, divides his
land between his daughters Goneril and Regan. He disinherits his
only good daughter, Cordelia, because she refuses to express her
love for her father in exchange for land.
Meanwhile, Lear's friend, the Earl of Gloucester, contends with
his two sons. Edmund, a bastard son, plots to rob Edgar,
Gloucester's legitimate son, of his entitlement. The ensuing
struggles between all parties reveal several other themes, including
age, justice, the role of the gods and nature.
With the intertwining of story lines and such a broad range of
intricate subjects explored, director Paul Barry keeps the pace
bustling and the set minimal.
Gray and black fabric flank a stone-like stage that is slanted
down toward the audience, allowing easy access to all characters and
action. Few props grace the stage in this production other than the
occasional table or throne.
Sound effects are very spare and the ones that are used hit and
miss. One scene features the loud chirping of birds conveying an
oddly forced cheerfulness, while the crucial storm scene has
realistic sounds of pouring rain.
The storm scene may have benefited from a more elaborate set or
effects, although again, with Lear's madness creating confusion,
less distraction is probably better.
Lighting and costumes also lean toward the spare. Befitting pagan
Britain, royalty and subjects are clad in a combination of the
opulent and rough, with burlap over velvet.
Casting is dead-on with almost every character, starting with
Lear himself. Veteran Bay Area actor Ray Reinhardt has tackled
larger-than-life roles throughout his career, from Willy Loman in
``Death of a Salesman" to Stanley Kowalski in ``A Streetcar Named
Desire." He even has three daughters, like Lear. In his performance
the audience truly feels Lear's decay - from arrogance to
vulnerability to his crumbling connection to reality.
Other very strong performances can be found in Robert Sicular's
turn as the feisty but ever-loyal Earl of Kent and Julian
Lopez-Morillas' portrayal of the Earl of Gloucester. Lopez-Morillas
reveals his considerable experience with Shakespeare plays in his
command of the language.
The younger male leads are no less captivating. Will Springhorn,
Jr., plays a winningly conniving Edmund and, as Edgar, Jonathan Rhys
Williams is all wide-eyed naivete at the play's start, unyielding at
Although there are no mothers in ``King Lear," the three
daughters do enough to make up for them. The treacherous sisters
Goneril and Regan are portrayed to haughty perfection by Kay
Kostopoulos and Jenny Lord, respectively. Lord, in particular,
brings a reptilian glamour to her role.
Shannon Barry, who plays Cordelia, is endearing with her
guileless devotion to her father, depicted particularly vividly in
the tearful scene in which Cordelia is banished from the kingdom for
not describing her love for her father.
As Lear's Fool, Gerald Hiken tells his truth-disguised jokes and
riddles with impish charm.
The San Francisco Shakespeare Festival proves again that it knows
what it's doing, offering the complexity of ``King Lear" with an
attainable yet lyrical grace.
You can reach Alina Larson at (650) 348-4333 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
IF YOU GO
William Shakespeare's ``King Lear"
Presented by: San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
Where: Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Theatre, 2350 Turk Blvd., San
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; plus 2 p.m. Oct. 6 and
7; and 11 a.m. this Tuesday, Wednesday and Oct. 4; closes Oct. 7
Call: (415) 392-4400 or visit http://www.sfshakes.org/