King Lear



"Small" Lear, Big Thoughts

The truth is, King Lear is not a very nice person, and Shakespeare's text doesn't help us understand his motivation for forcing his daughters into the absurd contest of "who loves me more" that opens the play. When at the end, we gasp at the extent of his loss and pain, it is without a sense of having known him, as we do, say, Othello or Hamlet. But share his pain we do, whether the director and leading actor have chosen to have Lear played as an old, sad man driven mad by circumstance and his own bad choices or as a doddering old man similarly undone, as Dev Bondarin, the director, and Stephen Mo Hanan, as Lear, do in this condensed and focused look at the relationships between fathers and daughters. Some things fall by the wayside: the political causes and repercussions of Lear's decision and a tighter connection between daughters and their father on the one side and sons and fathers on the other, despite solid performances by David Carson, John Graham, and Montgomery Sutton. Yet, the focus narrows us in on Lear. And Hanan's face and body make us witness the astonishing descent of the man, shocked by the perfidy of daughters who humiliate him. He grabs onto his Fool (well played by Tom Wolfson), but in the end, he has lost what he prizes most before he dies. I happened in on this "small" Lear, and I am glad I did. On an almost bare stage, with few props and costumes, all you do is watch the actors and hear the words. A deft "blinding" works well, and the sword fights are like sorbet between courses—allowing you to step back from the intensity momentarily before returning to the questions that continue to haunt when you leave the theater.