Sections

A man more sinned against than sinning

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Don’t miss our updates:

Kicking off my two-night residency in row F of the BAM Harvey theater, I was initially antsy. “King Lear” is three and a half hours long, and a friend of mine had told me that he left at intermission without a second thought. What if the sold-out run — tickets are going for as much as $650 on Craigslist — was all hype? My fears, it turned out, were unfounded.

Sure it’s long, and sometimes — unless you yourself speak in iambic pentameter — things aren’t quite so easy to follow, but nevertheless the production was stunning.

Sir Ian McKellen, for one, shouldn’t be allowed to leave Brooklyn. (Memo to Karen Hopkins: I’ll hold him down if you nab his passport. Call me!) McKellen brings a humor to the tragic King, shouting at Cordelia through a sideways crown that resembles a zero, and delivers a nuanced performance that ranks among his best.

It also helps that he’s joined by a cast equally as strong. Frances Barber, who purred like Eartha Kitt as Goneril, and Philip Winchester, playing Edmund in his debut season with the RSC, were standouts, both seething with the wickedness of their characters, but never going overboard.

Director Trevor Nunn’s creation was all the more fantastic at the Harvey, where the cushy bench seats butt up against the stage and each of the players’ slightest moves — including McKellen’s nude scene — are very much in your face.

Nunn should also be applauded for pairing “Lear” with Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” which (for the audience as well as for the actors) was a perfect complement.

Here, many players who were front and center for “Lear” take secondary roles (McKellen, for example, is seated most of the time as the old and unsteady Sorin), giving the company’s other players time to shine. The changing cast mimics the changing style; where “Lear” soars, “Seagull” snarls, making for a funnier, if no less heavy, show.

This programming is quite a “get” for BAM, where McKellen appeared once before in a 1974 production of “Lear.” New York is only one of three American cities where this production will be seen. Granted, it isn’t an original production — something that Brooklyn’s arts institutes need to mount more of, frankly — but in this case, BAM really struck gold.

Recently, McKellen told the New Yorker that playing Lear was “the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.” Last week, when the audience rose to its feet for what felt like never-ending applause, he smiled out into the house like it might have been the most fulfilling also.

“King Lear” will run through Sept. 26 and “The Seagull” will run through Sept. 29 at the BAM Harvey Theater (651 Fulton St., at Rockwell Place in Fort Greene). Tickets are $30 – $90, but are mostly sold out. For information, call (718) 636-4100 or visit www.bam.org.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Don’t miss our updates:


Reasonable discourse

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: