Highly Recommended *****The waiting is over! The much anticipated production of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s “King Lear” directed to perfection by Barbara Gaines has taken to the stage at Navy Pier. This is a marvelous production, bringing the works of The Bard to a more modern version. While the true Shakespeare “fanatics” prefer hearing the “poetry” of his words, the CST version makes the language far more understandable to today’s audiences. I know that those from England prefer the old way, but to be honest, I enjoy understanding what it was he was telling us and under the skilled hand of Ms Gaines, that is exactly what we have at Chicago Shakespeare Theater at navy Pier.
What makes this production extra special is that cast as “King Lear” is Chicago favorite, Larry Yando. While he is stupendous in any role he take son, doing Shakespeare is his specialty and any young actor who truly wants to see the best could use this performance as a training ground for future reference. Yando holds the stage as no other actor and his interpretation of “Lear” is one that is a definite “Must See”! As always, CST, has a stellar cast of actors to make their stories come alive.Kevin Gudahl, Lance Baker, Michael Aaron Linder,Ross Lehman ( always the comic roles), Steve Haggard, Jessiee Datino, Nehassahiu deGannes, Bianca LaVerne Hines, David Lively, Jesse Luken, Fred Geyer, Nathan M. Hosner, Christopher Chmelik and John Byrnes.
The set (Mark Bailey, who also does the costumes) is sparingly designed but very practical as he uses the stage, a thrust stage,to its best advantage. We the audience, always know where we are and our attention is never taken away from the actors who are telling us this tale about a King, who is fearful that he is “losing it” decides to give up his kingdom by dividing it between his daughters. This is a hard choice on its own and as he faces the challenges that come with it, the greed and jealousy of the three daughters and their mates and as his mind gets even foggier, we see the problems that come with age and dementia. This is a problem that we all have some personal knowledge or experience with; a parent, grandparent, spouse or even signs of our own minds starting to fade a bit. Under Gaines’ direction, this updated version brings a greater awareness to each and every audience member, young and old.
Please note that as a memory for “Lear” the production is peppered with some great Frank Sinatra tunes. The purpose is clearly that this represents what “Lear” was and his own memories of those good old days. Tragedy is often hard to bring to a stage as we know going in that there will be no happy ending. In this production, unlike the recent version at The Goodman, the spectacle is not what we are here to see. It is the story itself and the words that Shakespeare wrote, allowing us to understand the situation that “Lear” is experiencing and as I said earlier, Yando brings his special talent to making this a theatrical experience that you will remember (as long as your memory lasts). Even if you are not a Shakespeare devotee, mark your calendar to see this one. There are other stories within this story: stories about families torn apart by deceit and mistrust. Of course, the three daughters and their mates are a story of greed and desire as well as the one who truly loves her father. This is a dark story, but a theatrical experience that you can only bear witness to through November 9th at Navy Pier. The performance schedule is as follows:
Tuesdays (thru 10/21) 7:30 p.m.
Wednesdays 1 and 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
Tickets range from $48-$78 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 312-595-5600 or online at www.Chicagoshakes.com
There is discounted parking in the Navy Pier Garage bring your ticket to the theater for validation-40% off) and public transportation is very available. Lots of dining spots on the Pier as well.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “King Lear:.