With apologies to Shakespeare, enough with the King Lear already!
We love the classic tragedy about a monarch, his cruel daughters, and a whole bunch of killing—and that’s why we beg producers to give a rest
Fri Mar 28 2014
Photograph: Carol Rosegg
Last night saw the opening of a Theatre for a New Audience's King Lear in Brooklyn—mere blocks from BAM, where Frank Langella raged in the storm not two months ago. At this point, I too feel like running into a torrential downpour and screaming, "Enough fucking Lears already!"
Lear is one of Shakespeare's greatest works, a gut-wrenching, heart-rending epic on the level of Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth. I'm also really sick of it. Each year it seems some aging character actor or leading man gone to seed has to trot out his mad monarch in yet another stab at this long, grueling masterpiece—and why? Lear features one character who hasn't been funny in four centuries (the Fool), another who's impossible to play (Edgar, disguised as Poor Tom) and roles for women that range from sadistic bitch to saintly doormat. Okay, besides that, it's a great play.
I'd just like to see it less.
Think I'm being a drama queen, er, king? This bloody tragedy has been done, by conservative count, at least seven times in the past eight years. Even Goodfellas goon Paul Sorvino is giving it a shot at a benefit performance. (Actually, one of the most interesting and affecting versions I ever saw was directed by Michael Gardner at the Brick in Williamsburg and starred the young Sara Barker as the king.)
But wait: there's more! This summer, John Lithgow will go berserk over his unkind daughters at Shakespeare in the Park. If you want to catch the magnificent Simon Russell Beale losing his marbles in blank verse, join me at the NT Live hi-def broadcast in May. But for God's sake, people, can we give this miserable slog through domestic and national horror a break? Better yet, let Peter Jackson film it in New Zealand with McKellen and tons of F/X, so I can leave it on the shelf—or maybe add it to our best Shakes-to-film adaptations.
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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)