Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: JULY 16, 2010
A thematic thread runs through the three plays in the Summer Shakespeare Festival at the Old Globe: emotions run amok – in two mad monarchs and one shrieking hellcat. In each case, self-awareness brings self-control.
The anchor of the season is “King Lear,” Shakespeare’s masterpiece of misguided parental myopia. Festival artistic director Adrian Noble has brilliantly sandwiched the tragedy between a drama and a comedy, imaginatively underscoring echoes of “Lear” in each.
In Allan Ben nett’s 1991 play, “The Madness of George III,” there’s a wonderful moment when the 18th century English ruler, half out of his wits, reads scenes from “King Lear” with his doctor, played by Robert Foxworth , the same actor who’s Lear on alternate nights at the Globe. A reflexive, self-referential stroke of genius.
The Festival gets its special effects money’s worth this summer: all three shows feature a wildly swirling, thunder-and-lightning snowstorm.
There are many reasons for you to see all three productions, each a marvel in its own right. For one thing, it’s exhilarating to watch the same actors flex their dramatic muscles in vastly different roles. And each is a play of enormous substance and relevance.
This forceful “Lear” is an object lesson in governance, parenting and being blinded by flattery and fawning. Both historical and metaphorical, “George III” presents a fictionalized version of one decade in the life of the British King who lost the colonies (that would be us!) — and the two-party, split-family, back-room political power-wrangling that served as backdrop to his bouts of lunacy. The smart, sharp-witted play also serves as a figurative commentary on a sick body politic and a defective health care system.
Miles Anderson is spectacular as the sporadically debilitated, deranged monarch. Under Noble’s direction, the ensemble is outstanding, though there’s a bit too much ceremonial posing and door-closing.
There’s a tad of excess in “The Taming of the Shrew,” too. Director Ron Daniels overuses the dancing boys and shoots for over-the-top, wink-nudge, audience -interaction comedy throughout. But he gets the central relationship thrillingly right. It’s not about the total subjugation of a woman; it’s a coming together of intellectual equals. This Kate realizes early on that she’s met her match in Petruchio . She seems to see the payoff in going along on his bizarre journey of control, a battle of the wills and wits that, in this rendering, will surely culminate in marital harmony. Clearly, there’s a strong physical/mental/emotional attraction between the couple, superbly portrayed by Jonno Roberts and Emily Swallow. This is a partnership forged in passion and playfulness, a partnership of peers – dressed, by the way, in the most stunning of costumes.
So, what are you waiting for? A terrific trio of productions is there for the taking. Hie thee forthwith to the Festival Stage in Balboa Park .
“The Taming of the Shrew” and “The Madness of George III” run in repertory with “King Lear,” through late September, on the Old Globe’s outdoor Festival Stage in Balboa Park .
©2010 PAT LAUNER