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Shakespeare and Col

King Lear

by William Shakespeare,

Directed by Nicole Ricciardi. Reviewed by J. Peter Bergman

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth ”

        Shakespeare wasn’t kidding when he wrote King Lear. There was a plague going on; people weren’t in the mood for light amusements. They needed something to confront the fears of the day and still allow good to triumph. Shakespeare and Co isn’t kidding either.

Christopheer Lloyd (c) as King Lear; 

Photo by Katie McKellick

        They are presenting the play as both their season opener and the first play in their new theater, The New Spruce Theatre, a 552 seat open air arena stage. They are introducing a new company member in the title role and stepping up the careers of some younger company members with some leading roles. It makes for exciting drama all lthe way around.

        Christopher Lloyd steps into the title role joining the company leading men Nigel Gore as the Earl of Kent, Jonathan Epstein as the Earl of Gloucester and Allyn Burrows as The Fool. This is a quartet that is simply hard to beat. Each of them has his moment or scene in which to shine along with Ryan Winnkles as the Duke of Cornwall, Bryce Michael Wood and Noma Sidome as the sons of Gloucester. Each actor plays his role with style and without any contemprary flourish.

         Three wonderful women take on the central roless of King Lear’s daughters. Jeanne M. Jadow is a lovely Regan; Jasmine Chen Rush plays the loyal Cordelia; MaConnia Chessser shines as the opportunistic Goneril.

        Chesser, in particular, makes an impact with her role, one that should guarantee her stronger roles in future seasons. The entire cast does well under Nicole Ricciardi’s perfect direction.

          Jim Youngerman delivers a group of set pieces that complement the needs of the play; Govane Lohbauer’s costumes allow each character to make a memory  for  the audience;. Sound designer Amy Altadonna gives us great storm effects.  

MaConnia Chesser;; 

Photo by Katie McKellick

            In fact I can’t find anything in this production to criticize.  Lloyd’ s Lear  goes slowly mad and even ages visibly under the severe mental strain the character endures. The sisters turn into ideal rivals in every way possible; the Fool sings well and amuses Lear, in spite of the King’s antipathy. He doesn’t grow as close to Lear as in other productions I’ve seen, but that felt okay as well.

            It’s a cut version of the play, but still felt long, especially towards the end, but there is so much happening that it just naturally seems to be longer than the 2hours and 50 minutes the program announces. (The play moved into the Packer Playhouse for the second half due to bad weather.) Seeing this King Lear would be a rewarding experience, folks. Try to see it.

+ 07/09/2021 + 

King Lear plays throughh August 28 at Shakespeare and Com.'s New Spruce Theatre located at 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA  For information ad tickerts go to their website at www. shakespeare.org.