shotgun players

Maintained and
hosted by
Oak City


Contra Costa Times, May 15, 2006


"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!"

-- By Pat Craig

Actors lust to play Lear, Shakespeare's complex, confusing and ultimately crazy anti-hero of "King Lear."

The character of the troubled ruler who watches his family dissolve into pools of blood is as malleable as any the Bard created, but there is so much meat on the old king's bones, most journeys into the wilderness of Lear's interior are captivating.

That is essentially what makes Shotgun Players' production of "Lear," which opened Thursday, such a chilling adventure. Richard Louis James has taken a fascinating new look at Lear, and comes up with a characterization of contrasts ranging from mighty to vulnerable, cruel to kind and morose to pathetically insane.

James, who should be familiar to audiences of Walnut Creek's Center Rep, since he spent a number of years as a regular performer there, presents a unique glimpse of Lear, who becomes an increasingly pitiable man as he disappears into the cruel nature of fate and the greed of his own family.
At the start, Lear decides he is getting along in years and wants to divide his territory into three parts, one for each of his daughters, who, with their husbands, will rule the new territories. As a price for this power, Lear asks each daughter for a vow of their unquestioning love.

The two older daughters, Regan (Fontana Butterfield) and Goneril (Trish Mulholland), basking in the Cheshire grins of their husbands and rulers to be, have no problem telling the old man they are Daddy's girls, now and forever.
But the youngest, Cordelia (Zehra Berkman), tells her father that of course she loves him, but her affection is not all-encompassing. In fact, when she marries, half her love will be given to her husband.

This does not rest well with Lear, who immediately divides his land into two rather than three, and cuts Cordelia out of the bargain completely. This action scares off some suitors, who don't want to enter into a dowry-free zone. But the king of France (Nick A. Olivero), says that's OK with him, and marries the penniless daughter, who has been banished by her father.

Before long, Lear learns the bitter truth from his elder daughters, who successfully cut him out of the ruling business, leaving him powerless and wandering what once was his kingdom. The situation escalates to the point where the power couples make plans to kill Lear, now aged, feeble and losing his mind.

And, as the plans begin to solidify, Cordelia returns and attempts to find a way for her father to survive the plot against him.

The story is complex, but directors Patrick Dooley and Joanie McBrien have kept the pace rapid, taking full advantage not only of the beautiful and amazingly flexible set by Alf Pollard, but almost the entire theater.

Acting is uneven throughout much of the production, and includes a sometimes unfortunate variety of accents and dialects. But there are some engaging performances, by Mulholland as Goneril, Dave Maier as Edgar and Benjamin Privitt at Edmund. And, of course, James.

home  |  the 2007 season  |  current show  |  news/awards  |  ashby stage  |  theatre lab
get directions  |  who we are  |  contact us  |  get involved  |  archives