For those in DC, the performance of King Lear by the Classical Theatre of Harlem at the Folger Theatre is an evening well-spent.

I was only vaguely familiar with the story and André De Shields performance as Lear really helped draw me into the story. It is frequently difficult to deliver Shakespeare without it seeming performed. I thought that De Shields did a good job of effectively conveying emotion into a very complex character. My favorite though was Ty Jones as Edmund. The emotional depth of the character is more limited, but what there was he swam in. I really enjoyed his relish at being bad. ☺

Alfred Pressier’s interpretation of the play was a little non-traditional. The costuming was more Middle Eastern than the little bit I remember from the bits Lawrence Olivier’s performance I saw years ago. The most striking aspect though was the energy and physical presence of the performers. The entire cast moves with a sense of power that I am more accustomed to seeing in Cirque du Soleil than in Shakespeare. The athleticism of the actors was readily apparent as the jumped and climbed and fought their way through the play.

I think that some might be set off by the level of energy and pace of the show. I liked both it and Pressier’s use of a set of moving risers to alter the set through the course of the performance.

I also spent some time discussing the “complete misrepresentation” of McK’s views in my post yesterday with her shortly before I went to the play. As such, issues of race were still playing in my mind as I watched this predominantly black troupe. The most prominent white actor was Danny Camiel as the cuckolded and dominated Duke of Albany. I thought it was also interesting that with the deaths of Lear, Regan, Goneril, Cordelia, Cornwall and Gloucester; he will likely be the one to end up owning most everything. ☺

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