Four centuries before postmodernism, William Shakespeare had already built a play upon “nothing,” Cordelia’s response when her father King Lear asks her to flatter him more than her two elder sisters can. Director Kal Poole is the latest to make something of Shakespeare’s “nothing” with New Players Theater’s outdoor production of “King Lear.”
Poole starts with something big: Mark Mann, one of Central Ohio’s best actors, as the foolish king, and the powerful presence of his wife Danielle Mann as the wise Fool. But Poole also presents an original take on the subplot concerning Gloucester (Ken Erney), his legitimate son Edgar (Alex Boyles), and his illegitimate son Edmund (David Tull).
The closeness of the Mill Run Amphitheatre stage to the audience allows one to savor the subtleties of Tull’s Edmund, tiny smiles flickering across his face as his evil manipulations fall into place.
Shakespeare already provides the jarring juxtaposition of Gloucester’s blinding at the hands of Cornwall (Matt Hermes) and the villainous Regan (Erin Fisher) with the heartrending comedy of Gloucester’s attempted “suicide” with Edgar’s assistance. Edgar is often portrayed, naturally enough, as the naive victim of his brother’s treachery, but in his earliest scenes, Boyles plays Edgar as a complete dolt. The remainder of Boyles’ performance sweeps away that first impression, but it remains an odd choice on the part of actor and director.
Such quibbles aside, NPT’s “Lear” is something to appreciate, in Lear’s words, as “the thing itself.”
Credit: Dale Bush photo