Summer always seems to be the time for Shakespeare to me with outdoor productions, summer stock and the like in full swing. And last night, I had the pleasure of seeing Stacy Keach and a company of other equally talented actors reprise their roles in King Lear as originally produced in Chicago three years ago. And now in DC at the Shakespeare Theatre Company through July.
Always seems odd to derive joy from entertainment that offers up a staggering body count by close of curtain, but joy is what I felt watching this production. The tragedy of the demise of Lear's family and kingdom set in 1990's Eastern Europe. An especially violent and sexualized interpretation. But with moments of such intense energy and engagement that I would recommend it to anyone. Anyone that takes their Shakespeare in any form it rolls out to them.
As I sat enthralled by Lear wandering through the storm as he begins his descent into madness to the music of "Gimme Shelter," my husband sat beside me almost unable to contain his agitation. For him, King Lear and the Rolling Stones are not proper companions. He also failed to remember drug usage, junk yards, nudity, and explicit sexuality in the original play. He was happy that I enjoyed it so much but...
So the questions I have for you today are this. How do you take your Shakespeare (or any other classic dramatic material for that matter)? Do you want it straight up as directed by the text of the play or are you up for a remix? What if the words remain the same but the setting/staging changes dramatically? What if the setting remains the same but the words are contemporized?