Friday, June 25, 2010

What Fools!

What Fools!

Antaeus Founding Creative Director Dakin Matthews and well known actor Harry Groener each hold forth as King Lear in the current Antaeus dual productions of the play at Deaf West Theatre. In an unusual move, the company presents the play in alternating performances with two essentially different casts. The Fools (with Matthews as Lear) opened last night. The Madmen with Harry Groener as the King open tonight, Friday. That review will follow closely to this.

King Lear is the first full Shakespeare production by this talented theatre company with impressive individual credits. Fools opening night found Matthews with director Bart DeLorenzo’s well coordinated cast ready for battle. Individual performances from this cast were all on the same stage, the same page and for the most part all at the same time. Basically, the story of an ancient British king with three daughters, Goneril (Kirsten Potter) and Regan (Francia DiMase) both and each conniving, enlist to enhance their personal greed falls to the overly dramatic. Loyal Cordelia (Rebecca Mozo), refusing to flatter their aging father, falls into disfavor. And, off we go!

The professional quality of the entire production is such that you practically forget that you are in a storefront in NoHo. The tiny Deaf West space is barely thirty feet wide with seating for fewer than 99. Tom Buderwitz massive and protean set with the company’s dedication to crisp production values works. Lighting designer Lap Chi Chu has created an effect for the storm that’s a bit bizarre, but we have a contract with the players to suspend our disbelief and when we do, then storms and battles and all are immediate. T.J. Marchbanks’ stage combat and brief grand guignol with Glouster need to rise to the bar set by the whole production. In such a tiny space, perhaps, drawing back from that edge was on purpose. The knives and swords look real. The fighting not so much.

The actors, most seasoned professionals, keep the action moving. Out of the gate, Stephen Caffrey as the Fool is a little over the top, but energy is high on opening night and things fell quickly into place. This fine cast works evenly as an ensemble. Shakespeare’s language is not always easy to absorb, but the ease with which the actors comport themselves, physically and emotionally, words are not always necessary to convey meaning. We owe it to ourselves to indulge the rougher Bard from time to time and this is an opportunity to observe not only “How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child.” but, perhaps to imagine ourselves in situations where saying the right thing may not always be the right thing to do?

Through August 8, 2010
Deaf West Theatre
5112 Lankershim Blvd.
NoHo 91601
$34.00 Top

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