Robert Falls, artistic director of the Goodman Theatre, has created a Shakespearean drama that brings the contemporary world to the events of 150 years ago. Every aspect of our modern world faces us. One of Shakespeares most violent plays, it seems to force us to look at the blood, sex and cruelty that we see every day.
The opening scene in the court of King Lear glitters with all the gold and red velvet seen in a Las Vegas casino. The rapper-disc jockey provides the music, and Goneril and Regan, the epitome of sex, wear the gowns we see at the Oscars. Stacy Keachs portrayal of Lear is magnificent. From his gullible acceptance of protestations of love from his two devious daughters to his final scenes of despair and madness, he is the Lear that Shakespeare imagined.
Cordelia, played by Laura Odeh, refuses to become a pawn in her sisters plot to acquire Lears kingdom and is banished. A tiny thing, even her costume is that of a teen-ager. Kate Arrington as Regan and Kim Martin-Cotten as Goneril could not be more evil. Their explicit scenes of sex and drugs could be a part of any city in the world. Regans arrival at the palace of Gloucester with her entourage makes us gasp. As they leave their car, clouds of cigarette smoke fill the air. Armed guards at the door could be those of any drug dealer.
The huge cast gives the production absolute authenticity. The armies of the 1600s become the police and soldiers that we see every day on television. The final scenes of Cordelias invasion to regain Lears lands make us believe we are on the streets of Iraq. The body bags pile up, and the blood-stained medics throw them into mass graves.
Robert Falls genius cannot be underestimated. Hundreds of productions of Shakespeares works have been set in modern dress, but this play forces us to look at our own world and the evil that exists today.
Every detail remains as one of my most memorable theater experiences. Playing through Oct. 22, King Lear is a play to see. Call (312) 443-3800 for more details.
From the Oct. 18-24, 2006, issue