"Blow winds and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!" are the words of Kenneth Albers as the maddened King Lear in a potent production at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. It’s an incredible scene with Lap-Chi Chu’s lightning from dozens of suspended lights flashing on and off in lockstep with the violent storm sounds of Fabian Obispo. The amazing effects are all built around the dialogue and they never missed a cue or stepped on a line in a production directed by Michael Donald Edwards.
"King Lear" is the tragedy of a person who never knew himself, never understood the man inside the king and therefore never knew the true value of those around him. When Lear gives up his throne, it’s to the daughters who speak the most flowery and overblown protestations and he rejects the one who depends on simplicity. When he’s challenged by a long time friend and counselor he angrily rejects and banishes him.
Kenneth Albers was a marvelous King Lear. In the first scene as he went from avuncular to enraged, in his poor attempts to wield his empty power and in the final tender scenes of madness Albers was a wonder. Mercedes Herrero as Goneril and Susan Angelo as Regan were almost serpentine in costumes by David Zinn as the wicked daughters. Catherine Lynn Davis was Cordelia, the restrained plain spoken daughter. She was considerably more outgoing and fun when she returned as the fool.
Henry Woronicz, who recently appeared in Bloomington as the narrator in "Our Town," as the loyal Kent was appropriately noble in opposing the Lear’s angry denial of Cordelia and delightful in his guise as a rude fellow traveler with the deposed King.
In the second plot of "King Lear" another man is a fool of his children, but with the Earl of Gloucester it’s his sons. Robert Elliott effectively played the Earl as a thoughtful business man. But like Lear, in quickness to anger, he was totally taken in by the schemes of the artfully evil Benn Bass as Edmund and put against his true son Edgar, Christian Coin. While King Lear pays with his sanity for doing unreasonable things, the Earl pays with his eyes for not seeing the truth.
The IRT’s "King Lear" is a quilt of actions and emotions. It’s a deep play with a production to match. In the storms it’s actually physically frightening, awe inspiring. In the wonderful speeches we’re lifted and carried along by words. In many scenes there’s plenty of tension and drama. Pity is strongly sought and, for good measure, there’s even a good deal of outright humor.
The Indiana Repertory Theatre’s production of "King Lear" continues through March 25th.