Gripping the audience and taking them through a journey of mystery, passion, tension, guilt, joy, sadness, empathy and love, King Lear grapples with life’s extremes and very easily connects to the audience in personal ways.
The Kansas City Actors Theatre teamed up with UMKC Theatre to produce King Lear by William Shakespeare performed at the Spencer Theatre.
Director Ryan Artzberger states in the program, “Like Lear, we are often unable to recognize that the self is more a river than a stone; that we contain myriad contradictions and incongruities. What it is to be human is more mysterious and enigmatic than we’d like to believe.”
There are a few familiar faces among recent UMKC productions, as well as new ones among the cast. This play featured a unique blend of actors from seasoned and experienced to new actors making their premier at UMKC, as well as actors from UMKC and the Kansas City Actors Theatre.
The play is based in the classic time of Shakespeare, opening with Ancient Grecian columns and sounds of a distant ocean. Although the set remained essentially the same besides a few props, the show was anything but stagnant. The actors made use of the whole theatre, making is seem larger while blending the borders of reality between the audience and the stage.
As the drama unfolded, the audience was drawn into the event at hand. The lighting and sound helped to transition the scenes from the King’s palace, to the outdoors and private rooms from scene to scene. A strong storm brought the audience into a moment of intensity and clarity along with the actors, as a strobe light crashed down as lightning and thunder stormed; one could almost see rain pour onto the actors exasperated faces.
In a way that only Shakespeare could gather and create such a story, many themes came out to play, such as the dynamics of the circle of life, powerfulness and weakness, foolishness and wisdom and the supernatural and natural. The entire production truly brought King Lear to life and received a standing ovation.