Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
This production of William Shakespeare's shattering tragedy fills Washington's Michael R. Klein Theatre at the Lansburgh: actors make entrances and exits through the aisles and through the house as well as onstage. Daniel Soule's scenic design flows cinematically from an airplane hangar where Lear announces his succession plans to the elegantly minimal furnishings of a succession of homes to a shelter in the "blasted heath" made out of a crashed aircraft.
Godwin has molded a powerful ensemble that matches Page's gripping intensity, assisted by the dead-on costume designs by Emily Rebholz. In addition to the actors' incisive performances, Lear's three daughters display their personalities before they even speak: tall, dark Goneril (Rosa Gilmore) and sleek, blonde Regan (Stephanie Jean Lane), dressed in expensively tailored outfits in jewel-like hues, compared with youthful Cordelia (Lila Santiago) in a simple black dress. In contrast, Gloucester (Craig Wallace) comes across as the empathetic, trusting father despite his military trimmings, while Edmund (Julian Elijah Martinez) succeeds in hiding his ruthlessness beneath a façade of meekness.
Most members of the cast get their standout moments. The Fool (Michael Milligan) tempers his edge by presenting his wisecracks in the manner of a contemporary standup comic, along with broad facial expressions and the occasional funny costume piece. Edgar (Matthew J. Harris), boyish in his own character, takes on a halting walk and posture to convey the anguish of mad "Poor Tom," while noble Kent (Shirine Babb) convinces when she presents herself as a servant with a knitted hat and a Caribbean accent.
Godwin also emphasizes the fact that the major characters, except for Cordelia, relate to each other primarily in transactional ways. It isn't just that Goneril and Regan suck up to their father; Goneril openly despises her outwardly deferential husband Albany (Jake Loewenthal), and Regan borrows the military trappings of her husband Cornwall (Yao Dogbe) in her jewelry and dress.
Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew's lighting design, Christopher Shutt's sound design, and Aaron Rhyne's projection design work together to draw the viewer into an unsettling world where sincerity is often faked and integrity is an individual pursuit.
King Lear runs through April 8, 2023, at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Michael R. Klein Theatre at the Lansburgh, 450 Seventh St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or visit www.shakespearetheatre.org.
By William Shakespeare