Frailty, thy name is woman!
One of the best things about a Shakespeare production is how easily an actor or actress can slip into almost any role, even if the titular character is geared towards a male or female, and make it believable. King Lear is one of those productions. In a complete switch, the actresses play the male and the males play the female roles. Power doesn’t discriminate against the sexes. It is for whoever can carry the part and make credible. Actress Ellen Geer takes on the role as the weary King Lear who decides to abdicate the throne and divide the property among the three sons, Regan (Christopher W. Jones), Goneril (Aaron Hendry) and Cordelian (Dane Oliver). It is the king’s demand to know which one of the sons truly loves their King that begins this never-ending downward spiral of torment.
After Goneril and Regan “profess their love,” Cordelian’s answer does not satisfy the king. So, the king quickly disinherits the poor soul and Cordelian is banished. Lear decides to live with both daughters alternatively. This is when Lear sees how awful both daughters treat the weary king and throw Lear away like yesterday’s trash. Of course, by the time (s)he realizes what is really going on, the old man dies knowing that Cordelian is the truest son. It’s sad (s)he couldn’t see this sooner therefore saving a lot of time and broken hearts. Then again, there wouldn’t be a story.
Geer is a powerful force of insecurity and balls who runs things in her castle. She gives Lear an undertone of vulnerability but always in control. She loves her boys but treats them more like soldiers in her army instead of family. Maybe that’s the only way she knows how to run a kingdom and protect it. As King, she must rule without fear even if that is what she feels. Unfortunately, Goneril and Regan hate how Lear is treating them and prepares to retaliate. Cordelian is more reasonable and isn’t afraid of his mother until she disinherits him. Geer is a majestic figure to be respected and feared. Her decorative crown tops her long white hair giving her face a more ethereal look will spewing out quick-witted venom.
Other “brothers” Igraine (Abby Craden) the bastard son and Eden (Willow Geer) respectively as the prized son replace the brothers Edmund and Edgar, respectively. Feeling the lack of love from their father the Earl of Gloucester, Igraine decides to get sneaky by causing problems for his brother, which will make Eden the most treasured son. It’s drama unfolding to more drama. Both families need to participate in an enema cleansing and rid the poisons and toxins left in their systems for too many years. Even when the focus is off Lear for a minute, his soul roams around the stage trying to find peace in a bad storm while the madness takes hold of his exhausted mind.
King Lear is shown with wit, sadness, power and dysfunction beyond the help of a family therapist. Theatricum Botanicum presents another great Shakespearian production with unflawed talent and grand style. Doing Shakespeare is their thing and they do it will.
King Lear plays Saturdays (Aug. 2nd, 9th, 17th, 23rd, 24th, 31st, Sept. 6th, 14th) at 8 p.m., and Sundays ( Aug. 24th at 7:30 p.m., 31st at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 14th at 3:30 p.m., Sept. 21st at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28 st 3:30 p.m. at the Theatricum Botancium, located at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., in Topanga. For ticket information, call (310) 455-3723 or reserve online at www.theatricum.com or www.facebook.com/theatricum@theatricum