- Reporters Desk
King Lear is one of the great jewels in Shakespeare’s crown.
It is a play that mixes political intrigue with the declining rule of a king, tragedy of the most touching sort with ambitions that make Game of Thrones look childish, and all in one evening at the theater.
But the play is large, immensely large physically and emotionally, needing a large cast and, even in a small theater, a lot of room for physical theater and swordplay. Shakespeare did it, though, at the Globe with little in the way of scenery.
So, when Long Beach Shakespeare Co. opened their new production in the small Richard Goad Theatre in Long Beach they knew it would work. That production opened May 30. It is a success, from the interpretation of Lear with company regular Carl Wawrina to the tragic end of the play, with daughter Cordelia dead in the kings arms.
Every Lear is a unique interpretation and Wawrina goes not for the hugely dramatic but the subtle: his Lear is one we recognize from our own lives: a man who wants to retire from his dramatic and powerful life, a man who wants his three daughters to take over and lead successful and fulfilling lives. But Lear is mistaken: two of his daughters plot against him and he disowns the third because she will not fawn on him. The result is tragedy for him, political infighting and final death.
Wawrina is surrounded by three women: his eldest daughter Goneril (Dana Coyle,) his second daughter Regan (Fiona Austin) and his youngest daughter Cordelia (Lauren Velasco.) The first two, with their husbands the Duke of Albany (Eduardo Mora) and Duke of Cornwall (Colter Harkins) are glad to have Cordelia disowned, and want to reduce their father to the status of a servant. But there is one loyalist, the Earl of Kent (Mike Austin), who protects Lear. His fool, the comic Randi Tahara, is also there. There is a sub-plot involving the Earl of Gloucester (Mark Motyl) and his two sons Edgar, his legitimate son (Les Almourzaev) and Edmund, his illegitimate son (Andrew Huber). The King of France (Cody Bushee) and the Duke of Burgundy (Ray Oddi) are both suitors for Cordelia’s hand until the plot changes and they have other interests.
King Lear is a play so complex there is no room for a complete plot here. But this is an exciting production, with plenty of great performances, including Wawrina’s descent into madness and Gloucester’s equally tragic end. Helen Borgers directs the company, which she has built.
Mind, this is not the big King Lear that you see elsewhere. Instead this is an intimate one, with more room for thought and appreciation of the man and his tragedy.
Tickets are $20, $10 for students. Performances are Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through June 21.