Flatwater Shakespeare's Blog News

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Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Two Extremes of Passion, Joy and Grief

Flatwater’s production of King Lear continues to develop, deepen, and explore the riches of this haunting play.

The characters and their interactions have grown more subtle, more daring, more playful, and more vulnerable.

King Lear is, in many ways, Shakespeare’s most modern play. In response, Flatwater’s actors have revealed its anticipation of Samuel Beckett’s bleak but rich tragicomedies (noted by Polish scholar Jan Kott decades ago) and even of Harold Pinter’s sardonic family portraits (which is strange given Pinter’s reliance on subtext and silence – not Shakespeare’s approach at all).

George Hansen’s Gloucester is frightening in his epic struggle to face the brutal absurdities of existence and to sustain hope for something better. No wonder that in time his "flawed heart" can take no more.

Stephen Gaines’s Lear is frightening in his sudden and fierce anger toward each of his daughters in turn. He gains (sorry!) impressive strengths – in charm, candor, insight – as he accepts his diminished powers as aging human being and as a spent political figure.

Dick Nielsen’s Fool makes it impossible for me ever to accept again the notion of that several of Shakespeare’s clowns are unavoidably "unfunny" for present-day audiences.

And their achievements are matched by the rest of the ensemble.

Last night’s audience practically suffered whiplash in shifting from hilarity to heartbreak, from hope to despair – and were profoundly moved as they stayed with the cast and the play.

Invaluable helps in establishing, changing, and negotiating mood are provided by Janice Stauffer’s regal costumes, Annie Aspengren’s poignant music (especially her underscoring of some crucial scenes), and Dave Owens’s assertive and convincing fight choreography.

Flatwater’s King Lear closes Sunday, June 30. For tickets, call 484-7640.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Every Inch a King

Flatwater's King Lear presents Shakespeare's most searing tragedy in its richness, complexity, humanity, humor, and sorrow.

It is a political drama: the temptations of absolute power are too much for too many characters to resist.

It is a family drama: children try valiantly to negotiate with a powerful father and to assert themselves; another father tries to discern which child has his best interests at heart.

It is a personal drama: Lear comes to accept his own frailty, after decades of wielding forceful authority.

Combining the political, the family, and the personal dimensions: Kent, Cordelia, and Edgar insist on remaining loyal even to authority figures who have unjustly turned against them.

But loyalty in itself is not enough. Cornwall's unnamed servant dies in the attempt to prevent his master from committing an atrocity, while Goneril's servant Oswald dies in the attempt to kill a helpless political enemy and to assist in the murder of his lady's husband.

Bob Hall has assembled and guided a remarkable cast --

Stephen Gaines as Lear is imperious, deeply flawed, and ultimately deeply vulnerable.

George Hansen as Gloucester understands the ancient meaning of "pious": faithful to his society's norms, codes, and religion.

Matt Lukasiewicz as Edmund knows how his character connects with such seductive villains as Richard III and Iago.

Rob Burt as Edgar is a devoted son, an inspired improviser, and (in all senses) noble.

Sasha Dobson as Goneril has been poignantly dependent on her father's judgments and understandably, if mistakenly, impatient with her husband's scruples.

Andrea Swartz as Regan is so eager to be free of Lear's control that she eventually ignores all constraints.

Kara Davidson as Cordelia shows herself to be her father's daughter in both stubborn defiance and compassionate aid.

Brad Boesen as Kent strives to live up to already fading ideals of nobility and service.

Dick Nielsen as the Fool persists, as long as he can, to serve as Truth Teller to Lear.

Fred Stuart as Cornwall quickly grows accustomed to absolute power -- following Lear's lead.

Larry Mota as Albany tries valiantly to determine -- and then to do -- the right thing.

Richard Sibley as Oswald hopes that what is politically advantageous is the right thing to do.

Darin Hemmer as Cornwall's First Servant is another tragic hero of the play.

Dave Owens as the King of France admirably plays the role of the rescuing knight -- if only this were Cordelia's story (and if she ceased to care about Lear).

Justin Baldinger is a sympathetic, astute, and solicitous Doctor.

Paden Alexander is a convincing and diplomatic courtier in a variety of roles.


The play continues September 20-23 and 27-30 at the Swan Theatre at Wyuka Cemetery and Park, 3600 "O" Street in Lincoln. For tickets, call 484-7640 or visit http://www.flatwatershakespeare.org/.