Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

King Lear
Great Lakes Theater


Aled Davies and David Anthony Smith
"A stunning production" best describes the Great Lakes Theater mounting of Shakespeare's masterpiece King Lear.

This is, perhaps, Shakespeare's most difficult play to produce and perform. The story has interior sets and scenes taking place on storm-swept moors. The large cast of important characters demands a team of actors able to play a wide emotional scale. Remember, the script is a little more than 400 years old and yet it holds up as a story and still has the power to move audiences.

This production runs about two and a half hours, including intermission. But this is for many of us a once-in-a-lifetime production. King Lear is rarely produced. I've only seen two productions of the play in my life. The problem is the title role.

Men who are old enough to play King Lear are usually too old to sustain the long, physically demanding role. Think of Lear as being about 80 years old. We usually settle for a movie of the play starring actors who shoot the movie over several weeks.

Aled Davies (Lear) is a mature man. But he's far from 80 years old. He has the stamina to play the role and he plays it well.

This is an excellent production, in part because of the script and because the Great Lakes Theater has attracted some of the best actors available. For example, Lear's three daughters are played by Laura Perrotta (Goneril), Robyn Cohen (Regan), and Cassandra Bissell (Cordelia). These three are excellent in their roles. However, Perrotta and Cohen as the villainesses move their careers in a new direction. Too often they have played the long-suffering female lead. Finally, they have a chance to show they're made of sterner and meaner stuff.

Dougfred Miller plays Kent as a courtier and later goes into a dramatic change in costume to play a rough and tumble supporter of Lear. He adds a disguise and accent and attempts to rescue his king. Miller creates two separate characters and has plenty of quality stage time. Miller is completely believable in both sides of the character he plays. This is a powerful, unforgettable performance.

David Anthony Smith (Gloucester) has played too many well-dressed, well-groomed good guys. Finally he gets to expand his emotional range and play one of the most exciting and demanding roles written. Smith is heartbreakingly good as the Earl of Gloucester. When he and J. Todd Adams (as his son Edgar) play the scene after Gloucester is blinded, the production becomes pure magic.

Tom Ford makes Lear's Fool one of the most interesting characters to step out of this script. Ford starts his turn as a typical fool or clown. Seated on the edge of the stage, facing the audience, he applies his clown makeup and then becomes a sympathetic, kind, caring fool for Lear. He's a pleasure to watch.

I do not have the space to praise the many actors who play smaller (but not less important) roles. The cast does not have one weak link.

Yet, we come back to Aled Davies. I've seen him play many other characters: Scrooge/Samuels in A Christmas Carol, Prospero in The Tempest, John Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Oberon/Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and many, many more. Davies is at his best as King Lear.

The Hanna Theatre has a superior sound system. When the storm hits the moor and sweeps across the theater, Davies has a voice to match the storm. His Lear battles the thunder with his own bellowing storm and he seems to win. This is a performance to remember for a lifetime.

I believe the costumes should be appropriate for the script. Therefore, King Lear should be played in Elizabethan period costumes. However, Joseph Hanreddy (director) and Martha Hally (costume designer) have costumed the cast in modern dress. The men wear suits and ties. The women wear business wear until late in the show when they change into tight jeans and slacks. For once, I was so taken with the story and the spectacular acting, I forgot to think about the costumes.

This is a first-rate production of King Lear for several reasons: Aled Davies, a superior cast, a tough director and, of course, an excellent playwright. King Lear is paired with The Secret Garden for the fall season of the Great Lakes Theater. King Lear opened runs through November 1, 2015. For ticket information call 216-241-6000 or GreatLakesTheater.org.

Playwright: William Shakespeare
King Lear: Aled Davies
Goneril: Laura Perrotta
Regan: Robyn Cohen
Cordelia: Cassandra Bissell
Duke of Albany: Stephen Mitchell Brown
Duke of Cornwall: Dustin Tucker
Earl of Kent: Dougfred Miller
Earl of Gloucester: David Anthony Smith
Edgar: J. Todd Adams
Edgar: Jonathan Dyrud
Lear's Fool: Tom Ford
Oswald: Peter Gosik
King of France: Neil Brookshire
Duke of Burgundy: Ben Kemper
All other ensemble roles: Neil Brookshire, Gabriel Brown, Peter Gosik, Leah Jennings, Jillian Kates, Ben Kemper, Sara Masterson, Mary Monlock, Katie Proulx, Colton Ryan
Scenic Design: Linda Buchanan
Costume Design: Martha Hally
Lighting Designer: Paul Miller
Sound Designers: Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen
Fight Choreographer: Ken Merckx
Director: Joseph Hanreddy


Photo: Roger Mastroianni

- David Ritchey


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