The first act of "King Lear" seems so wrong-headed that it may be a major surprise how much you like it anyway.
Lear (Dan Kremer) wants to know which of his daughters deserves his riches. Two, Goneril (played by Carole Healey) and Regan (Carey Cannon), speak heaps of love to convince Daddy to turn over his dough. Cordelia (Shelly Gaza) refuses to take part. Lear gets so mad he gives her nothing. It winds up, many killings later, that it was Cordelia who really loved Dad best.
While J.R. Sullivan and his talented cast provide countless moments of genuine, moving interaction, the director fails to set up the basic situation. Lear is as close to a figure of divine omnipotence as his subjects think man can get. When he bellows to the heavens, we should feel as if a great force of nature is challenging the celestial order of things.
But Kremer in the title role is too steady for all that. He’s a likable performer who just doesn’t carry a lot of weight.
In the hands of actor Kieran Connolly, the Earl of Gloucester, who undergoes a similar moral transformation, has the same problems. The two men are such ordinary codgers that you don’t understand what all the yelling is about.
In the second act, though, it’s moving to watch how these two curmudgeons share their newly found states of humility. The evening’s one breathtaking moment is in the simple act of Cordelia watching, with love, her exhausted father sleeping. Sullivan’s production touches effectively on the humility aging forces on all of us. But it ignores, peculiarly, the issues of hubris and divine right that are at the center of this conflict.
Interesting actors abound, particularly Shawn Fagan as Edgar, a faithful son who, to protect his father, Gloucester, impersonates a nimble beggar; Timothy Castro, who brings a dominant air to his babblings as a funny and wise young Fool; and James Newcomb, as the Earl of Kent, who meshes well both the dramatic and comedic elements of a role that could be little more than window-dressing sidekick.
Sullivan consistently offers stunning (and often subtle) visual and aural effects. You never tire of looking at the stage. But the production inspires a contradictory response. No, this is not a legitimate "King Lear." And yes, it’s definitely worth seeing for what it’s chosen to be instead.REVIEW what: "King Lear" when: 8 p.m. (MDT) Wednesdays and Saturdays where: Adams Shakespearean Theatre tickets: $16-$48 grade: C+