Shakespeare’s Lear Reversed and Righteous

Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum opened their summer season of Shakespeare with Lear last night, only it wasn’t a king that set out to divide his kingdom in three amongst his beloved daughters, but rather a queen, who by her own procured demise, divides her “queendom” into a mere two, casting her most beloved third son (bearing the same name as the original) Cordelian, off to the arms of France, bearing her own love and wealth no more. For he, out of humble honesty, proclaims his love as only a son’s love should be, “no more, no less,” and in great contrast to the manipulative hyperbole of his two brothers.

Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer as Queen Lear with sons Goneril, played by Aaron Hendry, and Regan, played by Christopher W. Jones. (photo credit: Ean Flanders)
Theatricum artistic director Ellen Geer as Queen Lear with sons Goneril, played by Aaron Hendry, and Regan, played by Christopher W. Jones. (photo credit: Ian Flanders)

The theatrical rendition worked, brilliantly! First of all, the theatre itself, set outside in a wooded alcove, is spectacular. Shakespeare is truly supposed to be played outside. And they do it here with a special flair. The stage directors of the Theatricum have utilized the space fully, even deep and dimensional around and above the regular stage area. Queen Lear, Poor Tom and the other cast of characters make their way through and around the woods, peeping out for all to see, even if it takes a 180 degree turn of the head. The audience members act as bystanders in Lear’s imploding “queendom,” thankfully moot to the touch of the sword. And the actors are incredibly expressive and skilled. Theatricum’s artistic director, Ellen Geer, headlines as Lear herself. Her cast of characters includes the amazing Aaron Hendry (Goneril), Christopher W. Jones (Regan), Dane Oliver (Cordelian), Alan Blumenfeld (Earl of Gloucester), Abby Craden (Gloucester’s elder daughter and “bastard”), Willow Geer (Gloucester’s youngest and legitimate daughter, Eden), Melora Marshall (Lear’s Fool), Liz Eldridge (Duchess of Cornwall), Taylor Jackson Ross (Duchess of Albany), Gerald C. Rivers (Earl of Kent) and Frank Weidner (Oswald).

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The brash indulgence into insanity produced by wrongs, misunderstandings and painfully perceived injustices prevail in the queen’s Lear. Produced is a violent frenzy by the theatre troupe, in the righteous outbursts, guilt ridden trials, fearful haste, salacious intents, cunning notations on the human condition and more. The Theatricum’s production takes risks, and yet stays within the bounds of Shakespeare’s original work, which, let’s face it, pushed the bounds in the first place.

Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum set for Lear, a reversed role production (photo credit: Sydney Ramone Stokes)
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum set for Lear, a reversed role production (photo credit: Sydney Ramone Stokes)

Pack a blanket, dawn some cozy socks, and go see Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum’s openers, Lear and also A Mid Summer’s Night Dream. It’s a fantastic experience! You’ll understand why the Theatricum has been named “One of the 50 Coolest Places in Los Angeles” by Buzz magazine, “One of Southern California’s most beguiling theatre experiences” by Sunset magazine, and “Best Theatre in the Woods” by LA Weekly. We think it’s extraordinary and perfect for a cozy evening of high-brow stimulation.

Melora Marshall as Lear's Fool and Theatricum's artistic director, Ellen Geer, as Queen Lear (photo credit: Ian Flanders)
Melora Marshall as Lear’s Fool and Theatricum’s artistic director, Ellen Geer, as Queen Lear (photo credit: Ian Flanders)

 

WHAT: Reversed Gender-Role Production of Shakespeare’s Lear
WHERE: Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd
WHEN: June 7th through September 28th
TICKETS: 310-455-3723 http://www.theatricum.com

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