Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 26, 2021

REVIEW: Shakespeare & Company, “King Lear”

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through August 28, 2021 
by Shera Cohen
The presentation of “King Lear,” one of The Bard’s well-known tragedies, was a wise decision on the part of Shakespeare & Company to launch its post-pandemic (hopefully) summer season. The play combines two dramas, although not equally; one on a global scale and the other at the home front.
Christopher Lloyd
For the most part, unless labeled as a comedy, war is often the backdrop of most Shakespearean plays. Lear is king of one of the factions in conflict. Yet, the real chaos is between the King and his three daughters, and the daughters against each other. Paramount to Lear’s wars is the one within his own mind. Twenty-first century observers might call Lear’s disease Alzheimer’s or at the very least senility.

Allyn Burrows, executive director at Shakespeare, Nicole Ricciardi, director of “King Lear,” along
with cast and crew, took on a challenge bigger than they could handle. Their ace card was hiring actor Christopher Lloyd for the lead role. Those who remember Lloyd from TV’s “Taxi” and/or Doc in the “The Back to the Future” series, immediately think of his physical humor and booming comedic voice. Neither quality was needed to create Lear. This is not meant to judge Lloyd, but to say that the actor was out of his element in this intense lead role.
The New Spruce Theatre, built on the grounds to accommodate Covid-19 rules, has pluses and minuses. The design for the actors and audience is superior to most outdoor theatres, somewhat reminiscent of the Globe in London. The minuses were sound problems. Just as in the 1500’s, the voice was the sole means of communication between actors and patrons, many of the newer company members couldn’t fully succeed without microphones.

Ricciardi’s direction sometimes left characters wandering off aimlessly. Unplanned and misplaced  comedic bits included times when a wheel barrel carried a dying or dead character onto the stage; sadly evocative of “Spamalot”.
Ted Hewlett was the violence designer for this production and the fight sequence toward the end of the play was the brilliant segment that “King Lear” needed. Hewlett and two character adversaries put on a realistic show that lasted at least five minutes, putting the audience in awe of the skills of all three.