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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey


  Daniel Davis/PH:Gerry Goodstein

King Lear is the Everest of William Shakespeare's plays. Dark, mighty, and poetic, it remains the definitive savage family tragedy- a monumental tale of a betrayed monarch's descent into grief and madness. On the heels of last season's productions of Lear with Kevin Kline at Gotham's Public Theatre and the towering turn given by Ian McKellen and the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Brooklyn Academy, comes yet another majestic and mournful howl. This season it can be found by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. housed on the campus of Drew University in Madison.

Artistic director Bonnie J. Monte has staged the drama on a dark and gloomy rocky bluff. It is a decidedly bleak landscape, and the barefooted players garbed in muted brown and black tunics stalk the terrain with spidery stealth.

Daniel Davis is an accomplished actor who has had considerable experience in the works of Shakespeare, Ibsen and Moliere, though he is perhaps best known for his role as Niles, the butler, in the television series, The Nanny. Davis is a virile Lear one of swagger and dash. In the storm-toss'd mad scene he defines the despair, and he brings weight and clarity to the play's poetic peaks. The great dramatic sweep of the text is in good hands.

In what is surely the Bard's most chilling scene, the faithful Gloucester is strapped to a table and blinded by Regan and Cornwall. He is subsequently led to the cliffs of Dover for a failed suicidal leap by his banished son Edgar in the guise of the Bedlam beggar, Poor Tom. Edmund Genest offers a touching portrait of Gloucester that is warm-hearted, gullible and noble. As Edgar, the fugitive nobleman, Kevin Isola balances feigned madness with harbored loyalty to his king and his father.

As Edmund, the illegitimate half-brother of Edgar, Marcus Dean Fuller offers a tautly drawn portrait of a scheming and calculating neurotic. Seamus Mulcahy is the wise little Fool, but his wisdom fails to take hold. The whimsy, wit and compassion is missing.

Kristie Dale Sanders as Goneril and Victoria Mack as Regan are Lear's well-coiffed but callous daughters.They make for icy siblings ruthless and maliciously well focused. Sanders conveys the quiet terror of Daphine Du Maurier's Mrs. Danvers, the demonic housekeeper of Rebecca. Mack projects mousy malevolence with a teasing sexual thrust. A lovely Erin Partin conveys the mis-guided loyalty of the strong-willed Cordelia.

There is earnest support from Ames Adamson as a sturdy Kent and Scott Whitehurst as a boldly fervent Albany. Both actors speak the Bard with great clarity and conviction.

The courtly treachery is accented by Steven Rosen's stealthy lighting design. Monte's fluent staging brings in the play at just a tad over three hours.

King Lear runs through July 27.












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