Production tells story of fall from power, betrayal
Tragedy. Comedy. Money. Power. Madness.
Add William Shakespeare into the mix and the result is as clear as a midsummer sky — it’s Shakespeare’s “King Lear.”
Theatre South Carolina presented its production of “King Lear,” a story about a king’s fall from power, his descent into madness and those who scheme against him.
Joining USC student actors onstage is a cast of professional Shakespearean actors, with James Keegan taking the role of the down-on-his-luck king. He is a company member at the American Shakespearean Center, where he has performed more than 80 roles in approximately 60 productions.
“King Lear” tells the tragic story of a retired king who passes along ruling duties to his three daughters, only to disinherit one daughter for not claiming to love him more than anything. Lear’s own vanity causes him to offer the largest share to the daughter that loves him the most.
The story soon becomes one of betrayal and schemes as the former king slips into delusion after his daughters grow dismissive.
Keegan’s performance, which brings a convincing clarity to the character, is indeed the standout of the entire cast. On the surface, Keegan’s Lear is a cheerful fellow, overjoyed to let go of the burdens of rule if not the privileges. But beneath the skin, the former king’s hot temper erupts and blends with a sad infantilism after his abdication, as his mind dwindles under the deceit of his unappreciative daughters.
But plenty of other standouts make up the cast as well. One such performance is graduate theatre student Josiah Laubenstein as Edgar, the legitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester, who is plotted against by his illegitimate brother Edmund. It’s a role that crosses authentic experience with a bit of role-playing, as we see Edgar descend toward insanity himself while crawling on all fours like Gollum from “Lord of the Rings.”
Graduate theatre student Kate Dzvonik chews up almost every scene she’s in as King Lear’s primary fool, who provides most of the comedy. The audience can get a laugh watching her dancing along with the other three fools and sing about the misfortune of others. Even in scenes where her character is minor, Dzvonik demands attention with her silly antics.
If the scenery doesn’t propel the audience into the world of the Shakespearean tragedy, the lighting and effects will. Scenic designers Nic Ularu and William Love, along with lighting designer Todd Wren and sound designer Danielle Wilson, make great use of the effects. For example, in one scene, Edmund and his father golf as an eclipse hovers overhead.
Though the production is over three hours long, it doesn’t present a single slack moment, and the payoff comes in the final act where the actors find majesty in the constant sorrow.
“King Lear” will run until Saturday, April 17. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets for the production are $12 for students; $16 for USC faculty and staff, military personnel and seniors; and $18 for general admission.