By Jeffrey Grygny
November 20, 2012
Everyone knows King Lear is one of the greatest plays ever written, but in our reverence, we often forget just how weird, lurid and downright, well, pulpy it is: throne-jockeying sisters, hypocrisy, madness (both real and phony), a juicy sexual triangle, war, murder, a duel, gross eye-gouging—it’s got everything. Like a 400-year-old Coen brothers movie, this bleak existential tragedy flaunts flip humor, over-the-top violence, nihilistic despair, and the war between old and young. In other words: it’s a perfect college show. Shakespeare wrote for audiences of all level of sophistication, and UWM’s recent production embraces that, without sacrificing any of its integrity.
How do they do it? The play is full of problems and pitfalls, archaic language, subplots, mad scenes full of Elizabethan songs, and jokes that make no sense to us at all. But this production, a collaboration of the UWM Theater department with the Massachusetts-based Shakespeare & Company, under the able direction of Rebecca Holderness, navigates the obstacle course seemingly effortlessly, respecting the source and making smart choices. By having her actors take their sweet time with important speeches and breezing through the impossible ones, coming up with illuminating actions and stage business, and never passing up a good laugh, the show moves like a carnival ride through all the messy family/political/psychological catastrophe Shakespeare’s England found all too familiar after the mess Henry VIII left behind; today we might see it as the well-deserved demise of a particularly powerful dysfunctional family.
Read the full article at the Examiner.