For many plays, it’s good enough to be merely competent, but King Lear? Well, that demands more. Seattle Shakespeare’s production is directed by Sheila Daniels and features a cast brimming with talent, but it never seems to engage with the play on a level that transcends mere diversion. Perhaps the best thing you can see about this Lear is that it isn’t a slog — and surpassing three hours, it certainly could be — but it’s hardly the galvanizing experience one of the English language’s greatest works should be.
One of the production’s chief problems is a disconnect between performance styles. As Lear’s daughters Goneril and Regan, Linda K. Morris and Debra Pralle bluster and emote like they’re in August, Osage County, while Dan Kremer’s Lear takes a much steadier classical approach.
Well-versed in Shakespearean performance, Kremer is elegant and eloquent — perhaps too much so. The well-oiled nature of his turn eventually starts to seem a little mechanized, absent of the anguish one would expect from a descent into madness.
Michael Winters is more successful at communicating that emotional nuance in his similarly polished performance as the Duke of Gloucester. And in her gender-reversing role as the Duchess of Kent, Amy Thone brings her typical spiky intelligence, commanding attention whenever she’s on stage.
That stage is adorned in Daniels’ and Craig Wollam’s scenic design, a minimalistic mélange of sheer drapes and wooden buckets. The action is often framed against a large scaffold, which generally just seems there to take up space, even in the final scene where it’s used as an awkward final resting place for a couple corpses.
King Lear runs through May 17. Tickets are available for purchase online.
Powered by Sidelines