The King of Britain sets most of the tragedy of King Lear in motion right from the start on account of his unwise and unnatural succession plans, and specifically his rash decision to test his three daughters’ love and loyalty and force them to compete for their inheritance.
In the new Shakespeare Theatre Company production, the tragic hero will be brought to vivid life through another powerhouse performance by Patrick Page, the Tony-nominated actor who played the title role in the Tony-winning musical Hadestown.
“I have lived with King Lear in my head for the past 40 years,” says Page in a press release. “To do the play in the nation’s capital under the direction of Simon Godwin is a true blessing. The play seems as if it were written yesterday.”
“King Lear is a colossal play,” says Godwin, the company’s artistic director. “There is much within it that speaks to the now so fully. Patrick and I have been working through the text together in preparation for rehearsals starting in January and I couldn’t imagine a better group of people to bring this production to life.”
Assembled with nontraditional casting in mind, the production’s large cast includes Shirine Babb as Kent, Craig Wallace as Gloucester, Julian Elijah Martinez as Edmund, Yao Dogbe as Cornwall, and Terrance Fleming as Burgundy.
Meanwhile, Lear’s heirs are Rosa Gilmore as Goneril, Stephanie Jean Lane as Regan, and Lily Santiago as Cordelia. The creative team includes choreographer Jonathan Goddard, set designer Daniel Soule, composer Michael Bruce, and fight choreographer Robb Hunter.
On the second Monday in March, instead of enjoying the traditional day off, actor Rosa Gilmore will appear as Goneril having her day in court. Leary of Treason: Goneril v. The Kingdom is the name of the case that will be tried by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.
Of course, the case isn’t real and there is no such court. They were devised for this year’s annual Mock Trial, presented by Shakespeare Theatre’s Bard Association as an effort to highlight connections between classical theater and modern-day law.
It’s all a work of theater rather than a court of law — and yet, real judges factor into the trial and will eventually render their verdict on the case. All five judges on the Bench this year are actual judges, three of them alone from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The judges will focus on a request from King Lear’s eldest daughter, asking them to appeal a lower court’s ruling finding her guilty on all counts except treason, and sentencing her to 20 years of imprisonment and disqualification from future public office.
While on the subject of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, it’s worth noting last week’s announcement revealing details about five of the six plays planned for the 2023/24 Season, dubbed “Greater Wonders.” (The season’s sixth and final play will be announced later this spring.) The lineup kicks off in the fall at Harman Hall with a rather unexpected musical for the classics-oriented organization: Evita, the 45-year-old Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice biomusical, which will be presented concert-style in a manner said to offer “a uniquely humanizing approach to the memory of Argentina’s most infamous First Lady.”
This time next year, the company’s Simon Godwin will direct “a thrilling account of how our minds deceive us and how a guilty conscience can undo us all.” Yep, Macbeth again. Before that, in late fall, the company will offer a new show with roots in the same Scottish tragedy. Described as a “spellbinding and strikingly original” take from Whitney White (The Amen Corner), Macbeth in Stride centers on the character of Lady Macbeth to explore “what it means to be an ambitious Black woman.” It also comes enhanced with sounds from pop, rock, gospel, and R&B.
The holidays will usher in As You Like It, a 1960s-set, The Beatles-infused twist on Shakespeare’s romantic classic from Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, while next spring brings The Lehman Trilogy, Stefano Massini’s epic multi-generational family drama that culminates in the largest financial crisis in U.S. history — and the 2022 Tony Award for Best Play.
Six-play full-season subscriptions are available now by calling 202-547-1122; online sales will be added soon. Single tickets for most of next season’s shows will be added for purchase in late summer. Visit www.shakespearetheatre.org.
King Lear has been extended to April 16. Klein Theatre, 450 7th St. NW. Visit www.shakespearetheatre.org or call 202-547-1122.
The Mock Trial is Monday, March 13, at 7:30 p.m. Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW. Tickets are $60 to $150. Visit www.shakespearetheatre.org or call 202-547-1122.
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