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Theater Review: Ensemble...s ...Lear... is Every Inch a King

King Lear and Other Great Lead Actors Shine Despite Awkward Setting

By Allison Brown, Lisa Song,
and Noelle Steber

King Lear

MIT Shakespeare Ensemble

March 16-18, 23-25; 8 p.m.

$6 students, $8 general

A play about what happens when majesty falls to folly managed to avoid that trap itself through several brilliant performances, good blocking, and moments of striking symbolism. Last Friday night’s production of “King Lear,” presented by the MIT Shakespeare Ensemble, was a solid interpretation of the great tragedy.

Despite a few stilted performances, overall the actors knew their parts very well. Four in particular, Brian J. Keller ’06, Tom Giordano, Meg A. Rosenburg, and Erin Price CME, were so extraordinary that everyone else paled in comparison. Keller disappeared entirely into the mindset of the old and frail King Lear; his moments of insanity were chillingly unsettling and believable. And enough can’t be said about the Fool (Giordano) — even when sitting down to listen to the other actors, he remained in character. His use of movement kept the audience constantly engaged, and his speeches were absolutely hysterical.

Cordelia (Rosenburg) outshone her sisters, both in morality and her portrayal — manipulating intonation, volume, and tone, Rosenburg made the Shakespearean language effortless to understand. The acting for her sisters wasn’t too bad, but they spent too much time staring haughtily into space; a bit more movement would have completed the characters.

But now gods, stand up for bastards! It was strange at first to see female actors playing Kent (Hanna S. Kuznetsov ’09) and Edmund (Price), but they did it well, and Price was a star. Price made Edmund swagger around during monologues, gleefully weaving devious plots, and swiftly morphing into fearful, sincere, or loving, as the situation demanded.

In an especially spectacular scene, Gloucester loses his eyes. Whatever was used to represent the first eyeball going squish was almost too realistic, and Regan (Shannon L. Greer ’06)’s calm cruelty in stabbing out the second was deliciously horrifying.

Unfortunately, the background music wasn’t always timed well, and the sound often overpowered the actors, especially in the rain sequence (which sounded like porcelain sticks banging on wooden floors). A softer, more gentle sound would have been less distracting and more realistic.

The scenery, which consisted of several boxes of varying size with a few bright draperies, also took some getting used to. It all made more sense, however, once the Dukes of Cornwall (Cory D. Crain G) and Albany (Dennis V. Perepelitsa ’07) — and later the evil sisters — began to strip the stage of the colorful draperies, symbolizing their takeover of Lear’s kingdom.

Though the set and music were slightly off, the actors’ efforts shone through. There were some bland points, but they were well balanced by several absolutely spectacular moments.