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King Lear

  • Theater, Drama
  • 3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

King Lear. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts (see Off Broadway). By William Shakespeare. Directed by Bill Buckhurst. With Joseph Marcell. Running time: 3hrs. One intermission.

King Lear: In brief

The pitiless storm of Lear productions rages on as Shakespeare's Globe visits NYC with an eight-man version of the great tragedy of nothingness and being, starring Joseph Marcell (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and directed by Bill Buckhurst. If you missed Frank Langella, John Lithgow, Michael Pennington and Simon Russell Beale's accounts, now's your chance to catch the wave.

King Lear: Theater review by Sandy MacDonald

After three major productions in the past year, New Yorkers might be forgiven a certain Lear-weariness, an ennui that the latest rendition is unlikely to assuage. The Shakespeare’s Globe version—performed on a skeletal, Elizabethan-style stage—skimps on the “original practices” furbelows that enlivened the company’s recent Broadway outings. Here the aesthetic is 1940s-drab, with a few archaic costume elements tossed in to distinguish the 16 roles distributed among eight performers. Alex Mugnaioni needs no such visual aids: His Cornwall is aristo-contempt incarnate, his “poor Tom” (Gloucester heir Edgar in disguise) a tic-addled lunatic.

Joseph Marcell underwhelms as Lear: He tends to sing his laments, as if from a score, and far too frequently resorts to clutching his heart, verklempt. Aggressively employing a below-stairs accent, Gwendolen Chatfield makes a fishwife of Goneril. However, Bethan Cullinane holds her own in the dual role of Cordelia and the Fool (a challenging combo): one a doughty Joan of Arc, the other a Sendakian imp.—Theater review by Sandy MacDonald

THE BOTTOM LINE A few standout performances aside, best suited for Lear completists.

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