Bard's King Lear - Crystal ClearFriday, June 26, 2015
Directing Bard's The Comedy of Errors
Steam Punk Comedy of Errors
By now one thing is evident about Bard on the Beach. They may be beach bound but they run a very tight ship.
We were slated to go to the opening of King Lear on Wednesday June 26. That’s the info we had. Should you look up that date you might note a discrepancy.
So on Friday June 26 we were heading to Bard at 7:25. It was then that my precise wife told me the show began at 7:30! I ran four yellow lights and found ways of avoiding others. I dropped off Rosemary as close as I could to the front entrance and then to my extreme delight found one single parking spot in the closest parking lot. Somehow I managed to navigate the complex (you need a doctorate from Stanford) parking meter and when I ran in to my seat there was a smiling Christopher Gaze who told me, “Glad you could make it chap.” He shook my hand and climbed up on the stage to make his traditional introduction speech.
Our seats (the folks at Bard must have made concessions to my mistake) had us centre second row. The action occurred “up here”. It made this Lear immediate. Or as an a description of a Stephen King novel, gripping.
I always thought that King Lear was a complex play. This Lear with marvelous enunciation from all the actors, Lear (Benedict Campbell) to The Fool (Scott Bellis) made it all perfectly understandable.
When I first read P.D. James (and I have read her complete output) in the late 70s I found her plots unrealistic. I preferred the American crime novels that featured psychopathic serial murderers. I asked myself how could so much mayhem and killing happen just because of inheritance and family wills? Slowly I have come around to disdain the psychopaths and accept that Lady James of Holland Park had it all right.
At age 72 and with two daughters and two granddaughters I can almost hear the thinking going on. Who is going to inherit this table or that picture? Why don’t they die soon so we can get a down payment on a house and stop renting? Have you noticed that Papi (that's me) is beginning to sound fuzzy? They should sell the house and put him in a home.
In our years in our leafy Athlone Street neighbourhood I have seen perfectly fit old people be persuaded by their offspring to “downgrade” or “downsize”. I have seen them leave and within months have heart attacks or go into homes with dementia.
Which brings me to the 21st century relevance of William Shakespeare’s King Lear. It is all about an old man who wants to divide his kingdom with his three daughters. We know that King Lear is a tragedy. We know it does not end well.
This play as I saw it was pure relevance with drama that was clear and acting that was precise.
In Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare – The Invention of the Human, Bloom says the the hardest part to play is the middle sister Regan. He further mentions that he has never seen an effective Regan. I am no Bloom but I think that Jennifer Lines did a fine balance between the nasty eldest Goneril (Colleen Wheeler) and the angelic and Fair Bianca-like Cordelia (Andrea Rankin).
Scott Bellis fooled Rosemary. His character shifting is so good that it took my Rosemary a while before she figured The Fool was Scott Bellis.It made me think that on the one hand Bellis does not have a voice one can precisely say, "Tha't Bellis," But David Marr, who plays the Earl of Gloucester could never hide his magnificent voice. Both actors take advantage of their different talents.
I have no idea why handsome black men make complex villains. This is the case with the handsome black man, Michael Blake who plays the most nasty and scheming Edmund
The direction by Dennis Garnhum featured an eye popping eye popping. When the Duke of Cornwall, Robert Klein does the trick, complete with the throwing of one eyeball (David Marr’s as Earl of Gloucester) on the stage floor. It brought back for me the horrific eye popping/eye popping scene from one of my favourite swashbucklers Henry King’s (1949), Prince of Foxes with Tyrone Power, Orson Welles (and very important) Everett Sloane who with a bunch or red grapes (the film is in b+w) convinces the nasty Cesare Borgia that he is rendering the handsome artist Andrea Orisini (Tyrone Power) blind!
But most of the time my eyes were directed towards Colleen Wheeler. All three sisters had the most beautiful and elaborate hair (wigs?) courtesy perhaps by Costume Designer Deitra Kalyn. Wheeler’s hair-do (all red as she has very red hair) was beautiful.
I happen to know Wheeler off-stage. She is soft, pleasant, friendly, kind. In short she would make a fortune selling Girl Guide Cookies.
But on stage she is someone else. For me I would describe her as:
Her father was Henry. Her twin sister was Sugar and he was married to Penelope. She boldly suggested to be unsexed. Has a fondness for cowboy boots and a trout. Likes dumps.
To that I would add that she would (with Lois Anderson) make one scary high school principal.’
With Lois Anderson as her only competition, Wheeler has no equal.
Let’s have more of her.
I am happy to report that she will be appearing in C.C. Humphries’s Shakespeare’s Rebel.