Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


King Lear
College of Marin
Review by Patrick Thomas | Season Schedule

Also see Patrick's review of My Fair Lady and Richard's recent reviews of Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella, The Most Happy Fella, Treasure Island, and The Untamed Stage.


Mark Rasmussen
Photo Courtesy of College of Marin
Though it may be odd to say a production of King Lear, perhaps the most tragic of Shakespeare's plays, is filled with joy, that is nonetheless the case in the production currently playing at College of Marin's Studio Theatre. For, despite the madness, murders, and eye-gougings, despite the false filial love of two of Lear's daughters and the (spoiler alert?) final act death of the only daughter who truly loved her father the king, the joy of the cast in being able to play these complex, conniving, and raging characters comes shining through all the dreary darkness and pessimism at life that pervades one of the great tragedies of all time.

Let's begin with Lear himself. Mark Rasmussen embraces the role with every fiber of his being. There is no moment when Lear is on stage that Rasmussen doesn't stoke your concern for the old fellow who is beset on all sides by scheming lords, thankless children, and foreign threats. When he ends up half-naked on the heath, your heart can't help but go out to him, and you'll give thanks that he has his Fool, the loyal (despite his earlier banishment) Kent and honest Edgar, son of Gloucester to look out for him. Rasmussen's intense focus and live-wire energy command your attention. When he is onstage, it's hard to look elsewhere.

The rest of the cast also seem to savor their roles. Steve Price brings a touching sincerity to his role as Kent. The tenderness he shows is a lovely complement to Rasmussen's rages. On the other end of the scale, Rob Garcia absolutely slurps up the opportunity to inhabit the devious Edmund, bastard son of Gloucester. Garcia revels in Edmund's evil deeds. Sumi Narendran as Lear's daughter Regan is sufficiently haughty and regal. When she tilts her head and glares at those who oppose her, you can feel the sense of royal privilege dripping off of her.

Director James Dunn deserves significant praise for staging the play with efficiency and verve. Though epic battle scenes are a challenge in the constrains of this black box theater, Dunn nonetheless finds ways to suggest the larger conflict by using the space's multiple entrances and exits, shifting focus from one set of combatants to another and from one area of the theater to another. Set designer Ronald Krempetz has created a clean, elegant, and sufficiently majestic space for Dunn to stage his action.

Don't expect a happy ending at King Lear, but do come to Kentfield anticipating an enthusiastic, praiseworthy two-and-a-half hours of theatre.

King Lear runs through May 22, 2016, in the Studio Theatre in the Performing Arts Building on the College of Marin campus, 835 College Avenue in Kentfield. Shows are May 14 and 21 at 7:30 p.m., and May 14, 15 and 22 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 seniors and $10 for College of Marin students, alumni, and employees. For more information, visit www.marin.edu/performingarts/drama/drama-calendar.html.


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