A Noise Within’s superb repertory company takes on Lear as a contemplation of one family’s journey through the devastating effects of dementia. It is at once disturbing and powerful as we watch the ravages of the disease on the man, the family and a kingdom.
We first meet Lear in full military regalia overseeing a lavish ceremony wherein he seeks to divide his kingdom among his three daughters. He seems satisfied by the superficial declarations of loyalty by his villainous daughters, Goneril and Regan, and foolishly gives everything to them. His favorite and youngest, Cordelia, is too honest to play her sisters’ game which enrages the King and he lashes out by banishing her. This rash decision sets in motion great tragedies to come which create or perhaps accelerate his spiral into madness.
Geoff Elliott’s Lear is bold and raw as he unlocks the contradictions inherent in the character, swinging from rage to compassion, thoughtful reflection and confusion. His scenes with the Fool, a melancholy clown played with cabaret musicality by Kasey Mahaffy, are among the most touching. Arie Thompson is a stunning as she is conniving Regan in Angela Balogh Calin’s 1950s cocktail dresses and stiletto heels. Trisha Miller moves through her passionate ambitions like a cool, Hitchcock blonde while Erika Soto’s heartbreaking performance as the authentic, clear headed Cordelia, gives the emotional punch required for the final scenes as Lear descends into complete madness.
The entire cast gives strong, clear performances from Freddy Douglas’ perfectly slick, perpetual outsider Edmund, Rafael Goldstein as a naïve and trusting Edgar who morphs into an all in performance as Poor Tom, to Christopher Franciosa who endows the Duke of Albany with a cool steadiness that anchors everyone around him.
The production is modern, yet timeless and all of the design elements work in synergy with the performances to create a King Lear that is as quietly thoughtful as it is unpredictable.
King Lear runs through May 6 in repertory with the forthcoming Ah Wilderness! And Man of La Mancha at A Noise Within 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. (626) 356-3100 www.anoisewithin.org Tickets start at $25, Student Rush and Group ticketing available. See website for more info and to find out about their special event The Great Escape.