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Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

King Lear
California Shakespeare Company

Also see Richard's reviews of The Oldest Boy, For the Love of Comrades, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Amélie, A New Musical


Anthony Heald
California Shakespeare has taken King Lear into the 21st century with a bold production of the Bard's play. It is one of the most impressive productions of this classic tragedy drama that I have ever seen, including the last one several years ago at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and the one I saw in London with Nigel Hawthorn playing a kabuki-style king.

Amanda Dehnert has assembled an incredible cast of mostly local actors, including the amazing Anthony Heald of the Oregon Shakespeare Company as King Lear. She has also incorporated a bit of humor for the character Oswald, servant to Goneril's house, played by Patrick Alparone. His death scene is hilariously hammy. There is also humor in Aldo Billingslea's performance as Lear's advisor, the Earl of Kent, in the stockade scene. This is beautifully played. Also, the director has made the Fool a figment of King Lear's imagination. She takes the shape of his youngest Cordelia, both splendidly performed by Kjerstine Rose Anderson.

What can I say about Anthony Heald as King Lear—his performance is magnificent. His scene during the rainstorm is breathtaking. In this production Lear starts to be a little crazy after the first scene with the daughters. Heald's is a superb performance.

Dan Clegg is pitch perfect as the evil younger bastard son of Edmund, the Earl of Gloucester. He reeks of evil and his distinguished voice rings throughout the amphitheater. Charles Shaw Robinson gives an excellent performance as the Earl of Gloucester and your heart goes out to him when he becomes blinded by one of the daughters. Rounding out that family, Rafael Jordan is terrific as Gloucester's elder son Edgar.

El Beh gives a great performance as Lear's middle daughter Regan while Craig Market is impressive as the Duke of Cornwall and the Doctor. Sam Misner gives a grand performance as Goneril's husband, the Duke of Albany.

Melissa Torchia's costumes have a military look, mostly of basic black modern and medieval outfits. Set design by Daniel Ostling is very interesting. It looks like a giant Rubik's Cube cage of dirty glass and chicken wire panels, and the complete set disappears in the second act leaving a bare stage with just four searchlights at the four corners. They sometimes light the trees in back of the outside stage to wonderful effect.

William Shakespeare's King Lear plays through October 11, 2015, at Bruns Amphitheatre, 100 California Shakespeare Theatre, Orinda. (just off Highway 24 just past the Caldecott Tunnel) Tickets can be obtained by calling 510-548-9666 or going to www.calshakes.org.


Photo: Kevin Berne


Be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema


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