The Old Globe brings class and culture to San Diego; Director Adrian Noble creates something with something… a lot of experience and aptitude for The Old Globe’s 2010 Shakespeare Festival that steps it up a notch with this production of King Lear. Being that King Lear is Shakespeare’s most acclaimed play it seems that any production would be a challenge and requires a cast and staff of veterans.
Tony Award-winner Adrian Noble wants the audience to hear the play by experiencing it with the language as the focus. Noble has channeled Shakespeare by producing something as it is intended, but also contemporary with differences like American accents and women. His dedication attracts a passionate cast.
King Lear is prideful, but loving, rash then regretful; in his denial becomes crazy and mad. Robert Foxworth as King Lear meets every expectation with energy. In the very first scene he walks out after Kent, performed by Joseph Marcell, and the two exude vigor. It is at that initial moment the audience knows this is going to be great entertainment.
One particularly noteworthy scene includes Foxworth, Bruce Turk as the Fool and Jay Whittaker as Edgar. Foxworth is like a homeless drunkard and meets up with Whittaker who isn’t recognizable from his healthier days as Edgar. Edgar, now calling himself Tom or “Poor Tom” the more insane he becomes, is estranged from his family much like Lear. Whittaker surprises the audience with his growth from a normal son to someone unrecognizable on the streets, not just through costuming, but from pure acting; he completely surrenders to the character and is uninhibited.
The Fool, performed by Bruce Turk, also goes through many changes as he dwells in the King's darkness. The Fool becomes the fool. As Turk’s mood loyally changes with the king, he isn’t even recognizable once his makeup is off and his demeanor changes— but he still wears the calico vest.
The complete transformations of Foxworth, Whittaker, Turk and also Charles Janasz as Earl of Gloucester are extreme and may seem to bend toward unbelievable, but Marcell is our voice of reason—saying everything a sane person would say or the audience is thinking. Marcell’s Kent has the King’s best interest while being jolly, funny and concerned. Even though he is serving the wealthy in King Lear, as he did as Geoffrey in “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Marcell is wholly Kent and lends a fast pace to King Lear—his character not exuding a stereotype at all. The younger audience was very pleased to see Marcell and called out to him with the name he is best known, “Geoffrey.” Marcell graciously looked up with a smile and made his fan’s day.
Set Designer Ralph Funicello describes the set as neutral to allow variety from play to play. There are a variety of ways the actors can enter the stage through hallways, stairs, hanging from balconies, and the back part of the stage that slides open with doors that look like rice paper for King Lear to make a grand entrance as the beautiful eucalyptus trees fall back that are unique to San Diego and the Balboa Park.
Costume Designer Deirdre Clancy uses a neutral palette and solid colors of white, beige and brown with an occasional added color on Regan, performed by Aubrey Saverino, adds a peach satin jacket over her waist flattering satin dress in a bone hue inspired from the George III period. Goneril, performed by Emily Swallow, adorns a deep steel blue gray long jacket over her militant uniform inspired by World War I in the latter half of the play. The women’s fabrics with textured sheen against the cotton fabrics of the men pop in the flattering lighting by Alan Burrett. The clothing is inspiring and the boots alone will make a woman envious.
Shaun Davey adds original music with acoustic guitar. Turk as The Fool and Whittaker as Edgar sing some of the poetry.
The set design, costume design and music has a less is more approach not over shadowing the language and brilliant performances in the end generating a standing ovation. Though King Lear has family drama and is emotional, The Old Globe’s King Lear is stimulating and engaging.