‘King Lear’ Smashes All Shakespeare Theatre Company Sales Records

Tickets Available! See Now Through April 16

Patrick Page as King Lear (All images by DJ Corey Photography)

WASHINGTON, DC – As a cautionary tale, “King Lear “offers up lessons so dark, so full of evil premonition, and so dangerously dire, one might be loath to examine its foreshadowing against the present day. That it reveals the fates and foibles of the human condition is what Shakespeare wants us to ponder. And ponder we do the treachery, the deceitfulness, and the murderous jealousy of this dynasty spelled out in spades.

Director Simon Godwin wrangles this beast of a play into a modern-day crime drama with all the attendant twists and turns – taking us on a grizzly journey into the inner workings of one uber-twisted royal family. I won’t bother describing the plot. Go online for that. What I want you to know and feel is the way Godwin has approached it.

Lily Santiago, Stephanie Jean Lane, and Rosa Gilmore

It struck me as a cross between The Real Housewives of the British Court (because of the king’s two shrewish daughters, Regan and Goneril) and Hitchcockian film noir. Set in an airplane hangar with his soldiers garbed in camouflage, Lear delivers his edicts describing the division of his lands to his daughters. The two must pledge their undying love to their father to secure the best lands.

Shakespeare’s troupe first performed the play under the patronage of King James I on December 26, 1606 as Christmas entertainment. However, it seems the play wasn’t meant to be family-friendly entertainment but more of warning, as in “Watch your back, Your Majesty.”

Is it shocking? Yes! The play is set within a dire series of political circumstances that seem to correlate with current national affairs. In real life, we can’t peek behind the curtain of political deception. But here we can witness betrayal after betrayal play out between the characters – all of whom feel cheated of their rightful due. Fair warning: There will be blood!

Matthew J. Harris, Michael Milligan, Patrick Page, and Shirine Babb

Costume Designer Emily Rebholz outfits Goneril and Regan in flashy kelly green or black leather and fur, replete with ‘80s gold chains and spike heels, while true blue Cordelia is garbed in more subtle pastels. For a headpiece, The Fool wears what appears to be a gaudy hand-knitted cockscomb, while soldiers sport present-day military uniforms. Set Designer Daniel Soule conceives the wreckage of an old airplane as the scene for Lear’s shelter from the storm and a modern-day hospital for his death scene. Note the pizza boxes tossed after a wild party at Goneril’s house. Sound Designer Christopher Shutt provides the thunderous backdrops for the battle scenes with sounds of airplanes strafing the ground, radar bleeps, and bombs blasting. It’s quite effective.

You may never see a Lear as marvelously mad and subtly complex as Patrick Page’s portrayal of the mad king. How we loved his performances in Broadway’s Hadestown and STC’s “Hamlet,” “Othello” (Helen Hayes Award), Macbeth and “The Tempest.” Beloved local actor Craig Wallace is thrilling in the role of Gloucester. A graduate of Howard University, Wallace has played dozens of lead roles in area theaters.

Highly recommended.

With Rosa Gilmore as Goneril; Stephanie Jean Lane as Regan; Matthew J. Harris as Edgar; Julian Elijah Martinez as Edmund; Yao Dogbe as Cornwall; Michael Milligan as Fool; Jake Loewenthal as Albany; Ryan Neely as Roland; Lily Santiago as Cordelia; Raven Lorraine as Ursula; Shirine Babb as Kent; Terrence Fleming as Burgundy/Curran/French Soldier; Todd Scofield as Oswald; Hunter Ringsmith as France/Dennis; Bekah Zornosa as Constance/Doctor.

Assistant Director: Kate Pitt; Choreography by Jonathan Goddard; Lighting Design by Jeanette Oi-Suk-Yew; Projection Design by Aaron Rhyne; Composer: Michael Bruce.

Through April 16th at the Shakespeare Theatre Company Klein Theatre, 450 Seventh Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004. For tickets and information visit or call the box office at 202 547-1122.

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Jordan Wright

Jordan Wright is a noted publisher and writer focused on food, spirits, travel, theatre and lifestyles.  Her writing can also be found on her personal website

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