Sunday, June 14, 2015

Lear Fills Arden's Village Green with Tragedy (and Comedy)

By Guest Blogger Carol Van Zoeren
Carol is a 40+ veteran of community theater and a retired chemist and retired from being a middle manager at DuPont.

 James Kassees (Kent), Kerry Kristine McElrone (Goneril) &
Greg Tigani (Lear). Photos: Pete Lounsbury Photography.
It’s not summer unless I see some Shakespeare outdoors. Thankfully, our area offers two great opportunities every summer: Delaware Shakespeare Festival at Rockwood in July and the Arden Shakespeare Guild, now performing King Lear in North Wilmington. 

Greg Tigani (Lear) &
Lily Ozer (Cordelia).
King Lear has always been one of my favorites. I’m sure it dates back to my college days. I’d read a few plays and, well...meh. But freshman year, my professor showed us a video of the NYC Shakespeare in the Park production. When that sexy bad boy Edmund  the breeze billowing his rakishly long hair  bellowed “Wherefore bastard, why base”…um…I was…ah…let’s just say “undone.” 

Shakespeare on the page ain’t nothin’ compared to Shakespeare on the stage! And Arden’s production certainly delivers! Full disclosure: I’m friends with a lot of the people involved, and I know how talented they are. Director Mary Catherine Kelley has a dream cast, and my expectations were high. 

Robert Tietze (Edgar),
James Kassees (Kent),
Greg Tigani (Lear) &
Tim Donovan (Fool)
I consider Shakespeare productions a success if I learn, if I see, if I feel, something new, different and/or deeper than I had before. This production took me deeper into the heartbreak the characters inflict upon one another. I saw how Goneril’s and Regan’s deceitful natures poisoned everyone they touched and eventually, each other. I saw how crushed Gloucester was to realize he had placed his trust in the wrong son. I saw how Lear crumbled when he realized that words of love mean nothing. And I saw the helpers – Kent, Edgar, Cordelia  all of whom had to remove themselves from this poisonous atmosphere, whether geographically or by disguise, to protect the ones they loved. 
Emma Orr (Regan).

And more down to earth, in my 40+ years of community theater, I’ve always felt that the hallmarks of a really good production are how deep is the bench, how good is the chorus, are the smaller roles just throwaways, or are they fully fleshed out? I’d never thought about Goneril’s and Regan’s husbands, but for the first time I saw them. And I saw the huge difference between them. 

OK, logistics. Arden's Frank Stephens Memorial Theater is directly under the flight path of the Philly airport. In addition, there was a fireworks display going on somewhere nearby. The cast adjusted admirably, increasing the volume when there was aural competition. But how fabulous to have these “natural” sound effects for “Blow winds and crack your cheeks”?

My only serious logistical quibble was a certain shakiness with lines. Not because I know the play inside and out – I don’t. But being an actress myself, I recognize the full cast "deer in the headlights" look when you don’t know when, what, or how your next cue is going to come. Maybe this will get better later in the run.

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