On an open field, an aging ruler, once absolute, becoming obsolete, finds himself lost and confounded by turns of fate and beset by the forces of nature. But this king’s rulings had a hand in placing him where he is, bewildered, bedeviled, far distanced from his children. His house split asunder. With only a fool for companion, this question arises on the horizon: who is more the fool? Meanwhile, nearby in time and place, another blood line is likewise severed. The head of the family, has allowed himself to be blinded to truth, casting aside a beloved son who seems to be another person gone mad. The families intersect. And so it goes.
Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear moves along its foreordained path of pity and terror. A mighty challenge sits within to make this legend live. Nebraska Shakespeare’s Vincent Carlson-Brown takes it on. On The Green.
Carlson-Brown wants us to see that “darkness and betrayal corrupt truth and purpose and that madness is a dynamic and nihilistic force.”
Indeed madness is a main focus. Aging, often deemed to be an equal subject, given how often the title role is played by older actors, is less the impetus this time. Many forces are at play once the story gets underway. Questions about nature, human and other wise, about emotion contending with reason, about kinship too.
Lear’s tragic lack of understanding about the consequences of his demands and actions may resemble a spoiled child, but, likewise, he resembles a parent who cannot adjust to his children growing up.
Carlson-Brown has cast 13-year old Gretna Middle School seventh grader Chloe “Bill” Irwin as Cordelia. “Being so young does not exclude Cordelia from having stubbornness or recalcitrance. On the contrary, it’s actually the reason Lear loves her most, because she is prone to shortness and anger.” As if a younger version of Lear himself, perhaps?
Lear is portrayed by visiting artist V Craig Heidenreich. He has major and extended credits at Actors Theatre of Louisville. There are also women in men’s roles including Sarah Carlson-Brown as hapless Edgar.
As for the physical territory, this takes place in 10th Century Albion, using the oldest-known name of Britain. Which seems to fit Shakespeare’s exploring as source the legend of Leir Of Britain, a mythological Celtic king.
“No man will ever write a better tragedy than Lear,” said George Bernard Shaw.
King Lear runs June 22-July 8, Young Park, 411-1/2 N Elmwood Rd. Thurs.-Sun.: June 22, 23,24,25, Thurs & Sat. July 6,8: 8 p.m. Weds. July 5: 10 p.m. Free. nebraskashakespeare.com