I had the great good fortune of seeing a performance of King Lear twice in one week. (All right, some of you would say this happenstance is a misfortune - you need read no further!) One performance was staged in Washington DC at the Shakespeare Theatre with a professional troupe and Stacy Keach in the lead role; the other was produced by the Camden Civic Theatre with its cast drawn from the community.
And let me not keep you in anticipation any longer — the Camden show was by far the better; let me give you several examples of why I came to this conclusion.
On June 30, with great anticipation my son Taylor (bound for Oxford and a week of Shakespearian acting) and I took our seats in DC; when the lights dimmed I let out a silent groan as I witnessed all actors in modern dress — really this Theatre needs to move on with the concept that contemporary clothes dennote a timeless Shakespeare. And then Gloucester and Kent were having their initial dialogue while they relieved themselves at a urinal connected to some sort of disco. In counterpoise, Camden staged the tragedy in Elizabethan garb ( praise the Lord), – with Gloucester and Kent conversing over a game of chess. At the Washington show, Poor Tom disrobes all the way down to his birthday suit; when Stacy Keach prepared to do the same, the lady sitting next to me proclaimed quite audibly, “On Lord, spare me!!” But He did not hear this plea in time, I am afraid. Meanwhile, Camden did not drop its drawers.
Now I ask you, what would the Bard prefer?
Three cheers for the Camden Civic Theatre for their production of King Lear which was staged over the 4th of July weekend. The cast was excellent, one and all, but I would like to make three special mentions. James Perry who played King Lear was really extraordinary; and Ivan Zizek as Edmund had superb stage presence. Jim Dugan as Gloucester is of course my personal favorite — “in real life” he is a web designer and more importantly he is our web designer for the White House Inn!! Bravo to all!