King Lear presented at the Theatre for a New Audience is an intimate, minimalistic portrayal of the Shakespeare classic. Directed by Arin Arbus, whose other Shakespeare credits include, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, and Othello, creates a stunning world in which the audience is given only the barest essentials of a set, leaving them able to concentrate on the actors’ imaginations.
Michael Pennington(King Lear) shines, his abundant work in Shakespeare clear as he commands the space around him. Both powerful in his reign as King of Britain and pathetic as his madness takes over his body, Pennington straddles the inconsistencies of his character with grace and ease. Opposite in the roles of his daughters, Rachel Pickup(Goneril), Bianca Amato(Regan), and Lilly Englert(Cordelia) play their parts well. Rachel’s sexual manipulation compliments Bianca’s more political stance and together they are a force to be reckoned with as they plot to bring their father down and claim more power. Unfortunately for them, they sink their claws into the same man and in the end are done in by their own thirst for power and misplaced love. Lilly is the loveliest of the sisters and portrays her part perfectly. Innocence shines through her consistently. Her love for her father is the realest emotion among the women and she holds on to it with everything she is.
Startling performance by Jake Horowitz as the Fool. His energy onstage was a joy to watch. Both comical and wise, joyful and in the end suicidal, Jake navigated a stage full of seasoned actors with a drive that was surprising in one so young. Chandler Williams(Edmund) is a more passive villain. His actions dictated by selfishness rather than pure evil. I found his performance a tad lackluster. Jacob Fisher(Edgar) while bland at the start of the play found his own when he took on the crazed role of Poor Tom after being set up by his brother. On the lam and running from a father that believes wanted to kill him, Jacob adopts the role of poor beggar but falls into the good graces of King Lear and eventually is responsible for leading his blinded father to safety after his brother frames their father for treason.
Other talented cast members include Timothy Stickney(Kent), Terry Doe(King of France), Mark H. Dold(Oswald), Christopher McCann(Gloucester), Saxon Palmer(Cornwall), Graham Winton(Albany), and Robert Langdon Lloyd who all stood out in the parts as excellent speakers and actors. The ensemble includes Benjamin Cole, Jason Gray, Jonathan Hooks, Patrick McAndrew, Ryan McCarthy, Jon Stewart, Jr., Ian Temple, and Ariel Zuckerman.
As with all of Shakespear’s tragedies, this play contains several messages for the audience. Greed, power seeking, lust are just a few things that condemn the players and lead to the demise. Very few players escape death by the end of the play and the sins of those involved are to blame for the early demise of Cordelia and the consequent death of her father, Lear. Reunited briefly, they are only granted a moment respite before Edmund’s assignation order is completed leaving Lear to die of a broken heart after he carries the still body of his youngest onstage.
The set design was by far the most interesting tech element, with lights and sound design rounding out the feel of the play. The costumes I found to be incredibly distracting, as they didn’t fit the time that the play was clearly set in. Lastly, the music provided by Michael Attias, Pascal Niggenkemper, and Satoshi Takeishi was gorgeous.
King Lear runs at The Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn, NYC until May 4th, be sure to pick up your tickets here.
Review By: Aziza Seven