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King Lear



 
As more of us experience tragic deterioration in our loved ones, the message of Shakespeare’s King Lear seems even more timely.  In the hands of Julia Rodriguez Elliott, A Noise Within presents an affecting study of aging and hubris. No matter what the reason (longer lives, for example), we need to be more aware of the telling signs of old age.  In Lear, a monarch at the top of his powers decides to pre-empt fortune and dispose of his kingdom himself rather than bequeathing it, and thereby causing a potential civil war. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Ah, but it is never wise to tempt the fates. When Lear (Geoff Elliott in the role of his lifetime) tests the loyalty of his three daughters, Cordelia (Erika Soto) his youngest and most beloved, refuses to humor him.  Quick to anger, Lear banishes her and divides the kingdom between his older daughters.

Soon, however, the wisdom of this decision is put to the test.  With the two older sisters scheming against each other and the Earl Gloucester’s (Apollo Dukakis) illegitimate son (always formidable Freddy Douglas) plotting to seize his estate, the kingdom is plunged into roiling intrigue.  Lear finds himself greatly diminished, homeless and fending for himself in the elements.  Only the loyal Kent (Stephen Weingartner), the fool (Kasey Mahaffy) and eventually, Edgar (Rafael Goldstein), ousted heir of Gloucester, remain.

Although ANW has mounted this play in the past, this production finds Geoff Elliott at the height of his prowess.  His roar of anguish is personal; his fall deeply affecting.  His waspish daughters, Goneril (Trisha Miller) and Regan (Arie Thomspon), provide polar opposites to their virtuous sister, Cordelia.  We see the twists and turns of “outrageous fortune” through their machinations, and ultimately, the devastation of the country.

The production elements help to tell the story, from Angela Balogh Calin’s interpretative costuming, to Fred Kinney’s soaring background. The play may seem overly encumbered by the sturdy furnishings that demarcate each scene, but the original music by resident composer Robert Oriol bears out a thematic, indefinite and distant past, all the more to emphasize the lesson we can take away from this iconic play.

PHOTO BY Craig Schwartz:

King Lear performs in repertory with Ah Wilderness! and The Man from La Mancha through May 6, 2017,  at A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena 91107. See www.anoisewithin.org for complete schedule. Tickets from $44.00 with Student Rush and Group rates available. Phone (626) 356-3100 (ext. 1) or online at www.anoisewithin.org.