King Lear: In brief
The sudden glut of Lears expands as the venerable English actor Michael Pennington takes on the title role in Shakespeare's tragedy of foolish misjudgment and majestic degradation, directed by Arin Arbus for Theatre for a New Audience. The company includes Christopher McCann, Bianca Amato and Chandler Williams.
King Lear: Theater review by Diane Snyder
New York sees plenty of star-driven Shakespeare. Theatre for a New Audience’s King Lear, however, is a distinctly director-steered vehicle. Not to slight Michael Pennington, who brings a feisty and beleaguered gravitas to the title character, but Arin Arbus’s shrewd, spare production explores the supporting characters as much as the mad monarch, and even nods to the World War I centennial with Susan Hilferty’s costumes. When it falters, it’s due to sluggish character development.
Of particular interest are the three unloved children responsible for the devastation: Lear’s daughters Goneril and Regan (the splendid Rachel Pickup and Bianca Amato), and Edmund (Chandler Williams), the bastard son of Gloucester (Christopher McCann). As they yearn for paternal affection and receive only rejection, their wickedness evolves gradually—too gradually. Such tentative pacing doesn’t justify what ensues. The Fool (Jake Horowitz) takes his own life, and the horrific blinding of Gloucester, with him tied to a tilted-over chair, is performed perilously close to the audience. When this Lear is at the height of its power, it’s formidable. But by the time it gets there, you feel quite old.—Theater review by Diane Snyder
THE BOTTOM LINE An unfussy Lear contains good performances, but is slow to boil.
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