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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

In Context: King Lear

Photo: Johan Persson

King Lear runs at the BAM Harvey Theater through February 9. Context is everything, so get even closer to Frank Langella and the rest of the production with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. For those of you who've already seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.


On Frank Langella 



Article
"The Reluctant Shakespearean: Frank Langella Keeps a Late Date with Lear" (New York Observer)
"When [...] you’re my age," says Langella, "you’re never really satisfied until you rip yourself open and tear yourself apart. What’s the point of doing it if you don’t go where the character needs to go?"

Article
"Frank Langella Steps Into King Lear"
(The New York Times)
"It’s a play about finding [Lear's] mind, not losing it," says Langella.

Article
“Frank Lagella: Legend of the Fall”
(The Guardian)
First came the seductive l'homme fatal . Then came rock bottom. Now comes a career’s crowning moment.

Article
“Frank Langella: Call Me Mr. President” (The Telgraph)
For Langella, “King Lear is about a big shot who throws away his disguise and unlocks a Pandora’s Box.”

Video
David Edelstein Interviews Frank Langella (Vimeo)
The actor discusses his career—sexy Dracula and all—with the New York Magazine critic.

Video
Scene from Frost/Nixon (YouTube)
A climactic scene from Ron Howard's award-winning film, featuring Langella as the embattled president.

On King Lear


1608 edition of King Lear
Article
"Out of Their Minds" (The Guardian)
Five actors discuss what it takes to play Lear.

Article
King Lear: A Shifting Landscape (RSC.co.uk)
Shakespeare scholar Peter Holland examines the diverse responses provoked by the Bard’s tragedy.

Audio
Reduced Shakespeare: King Lear in 34 Seconds (NPR)
An abridged take on Lear from the ever concise comedy troupe.

Miscellany
10 Facts about King Lear (RSC.org.uk)
Shakespeare didn’t have to go with a sad ending? Lear was banned from the stage during the reign of King George III?

Article
“Shakespeare and the Uses of Power” (New York Review of Books)
Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt dissects one of the Bard's most prevalent themes.


Reviews


With Rage, He Flails in a World Gone Deaf (The New York Times)
"A magnificent incredulity flows, as hot and coursing as lava, from Frank Langella's King Lear."

King Lear (Time Out New York)
“Musical, muscular, fearsome yet tragically human, [Langella]’s every inch a king.”

Langella as Lear: Halfway to Greatness (The Wall Street Journal)
“Frank Langella gives us a star-turn Lear.”

King Lear theater review (New York Daily News)
"Frank Langella cuts a commanding presence on stage.”

Off Broadway Review: ‘King Lear’ Starring Frank Langella (Variety)
“[Frank Langella’s]…thoughtful, moving…performance has such breadth and nuance.”

King Lear (Theatermania)
“[This King Lear] emanates a freshness that invades your nostrils from the very earliest moments.”


Worthwhile Words


Frank Langella on overcoming hardship to play Lear:
At 50 I was stone-cold broke, I had no agent, two young children. I'd moved from New York to London for a play, it was a failure. I had to start my career all over again, I had to borrow money for the first time in my life. I was really on my ass [...]There were so many things I did wrong. But I did one thing right. When everything was going really bad, I didn't panic. I simply said OK, you're in the gutter, you need to get out. It might take you a month, it might take you six months, it might take you five years, but you will get out. Don't go and do crap. Don't sell out. And that's why I'm playing King Lear. (More)


Now Your Turn...


So what's your verdict?  Once you've seen the show, tell us what you thought in the comments below.

69 comments:

  1. not so hot; too much effects; not enough language; at times almost impossible to hear the speeches over the effects; simple majesty lost.

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    1. I agree: not enough language. Langella came across to me as an irritable old grocer, with his bent knees, short steps, manic gesticulation, bad voice and poor articulation of words. True, he was much better in the second part, but never did he project the tragic majesty of the character. As to the others: the Fool was great, Edmund good, Cordelia pitiful. And anyone's words were difficult to hear.

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    2. Yes, lots of problems with this show, but it's a difficult play. It needs an enormous amount of time for casting, for the director to spend with each actor, far more than ion other plays. Ingmar Bergman (whose theatre I've worked at) I managed this with his stage production (which came to NY), but he had actors he KNEW. This play is so, so difficult. And there was one moment when Langella got it, for me. You may not think that much, but that's enough.

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    3. I think that you folks need to invest in hearing aids. I sat in Row A, far corner seat & I thought that the dialogue was quite clear. I personally prefer Ian McKellen as King Lear, but Frank Langella did a fine job. Since Frank doesn't have a British accent, he was much easier to understand than most actors from across the pond. The staging was incredible & the supporting cast was outstanding. Well done!!!

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  2. sitting at the front of the orchestra seats--it was so hard to hear one-third of the actors. all of the sisters need to project much louder. i can't say i enjoyed it immensely but it was fine. as a longtime BAM theater patron, can't say i will be recommending this widely. @BAM-Brooklyn

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  3. Enjoyed it immensely. Langella as Lear and Max Bennett as Edmund were remarkable. Harry Melling as the fool and Steven Pacey as Kent also notable. But I agree in art with comments about the effects. Some was not necessary: the blood over done and even the sword fight ... well, it was fake, and so much emphasis went into using real elements: fire and water, wood and stone. Those real elements truly added a wonderful dimension. And Lear's raving in the deluge of a rain storm was effective. But the fake blood and sword play detracted. Shakespeare's words are enough to let us know of the bloodshed, and this stage should not try to compete with the action of television and film.

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  4. Langella was incredible. This is a superb production, and Frank Langella did one of the best versions of Lear I have ever seen, especially in the second half of the play. It will stay with me for many years. Unfortunately, none of the three daughters was memorable in this production. Cordelia was almost invisible, and neither Goneril nor Regan seemed up to the task. Goneril's character in particular can be incredibly interesting, and it would have balanced to production more if we had seen a stronger Goneril and an equally--but in a different way--strong Cordelia. Still, Langella's Lear will stay with me for my remaining days.

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  5. I am going to agree that the females in the production must project more, and added little to the overall effect. In fact, the rest of the cast (save for Max Bennett and Harry Melling) were lackluster compared to Mr. Langella's performance. Langella was terrific. He really threw himself into the persona of Lear and his metamorphosis was astounding. I was riveted by his acting. I thought the staging was wonderful. In the end, however, the play is all about its leading man, Frank Langella was mesmerizing.

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  6. None of the actors are anywhere near Langella's caliber, so while he was certainly effective as Lear, the ineffectiveness of virtually all the rest impacted somewhat negatively on his performance. No, this play is NOT all about its leading man. In addition, there are too many lines cut (the entire trial section is ridiculously and unforgivably cut!), and while this kind of directorial intrusion may have saved 15-20 minutes running time (who cares?), for me it ruined the natural flow of the tragedy instead of hightening it. The production lacked pathos and gravitas, and for this incomparable tragedy not to have left me moved, after the five previous productions I've seen of it had indeed done so, is unfortunate.

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  7. As far as I'm concerned (as a seasoned theatregoer), Frank Langella is the male counterpart of Meryl Streep, but the rest of the cast (especially the character of Cordelia) wasn't up to his caliber. (except Max Bennett as Edmond). We were very upset with the woman who played Cordelia. She was not ready for Broadway at all, and especially, compared with Langella, she was really awful. I didn't mind the cuts at all - happy to be out in 3 hours Mr. Langella is a wonderul talent, and his Lear made me and my husband cry - especially at the end when Cordelia was killed. We were in awe of him. But the rest of the time - when Langella wasn't on stage, I almost fell asleep.

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  8. Yes, the lack of projection by the women was a problem. But so was the fact that King Lear operated in a kind of bubble. Although Langella's Lear is unusually spry, he didn't connect physically very much with any of the other characters. I was especially sad that he demonstrated little tenderness for the Fool, a kind of surrogate child in other productions, who brings out the side of Lear that would have affection for Cordelia. As for the blood, I don't see how else the blinding of Gloucester can be persuasively staged; I thought that was effective. The costuming of Edgar-Tom in the iconography of the tortured Christ was effective also. There were many good touches involving the set and costumes, and I especially liked when the director staged things so that the words created the interior or the landscape, or the fantasy of the landscape, as when the blind Gloucester asked to be led and then left at the edge of a cliff. We could see, in his halting walk and sudden stop the cliff he was envisioning. But from the performance on January 8th, it seemed to me that Langella's was a Lear probing his consciousness like a detective while everyone else watched and operated in a separate spatial division. It would have helped if the sisters had all brought more gravitas to their voices and postures; still, there's a concept to this production that flattens the emotion and bricks up the actors' energies behind the Fourth Wall.

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  9. Lear's a tragedy but this production presented as insipid. Was Langella horridly overacting, at age 76, in self-parody? Guess it worked for attendees who think Meryl Streep's a genius. The special effects were a joke by BAM standards. Three hours of tedium. No doubt financed and staged on the back of the star. In a recent WNYC interview, it was clear Langella thinks he's extremely important. That should have been a warning, but we already had $84 tickets. Like certain neighborhoods, Park Slope for example, the production was neither one thing, nor the other. A weak middling treatment of Lear.

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  10. I had to leave the production early due to me getting sick half way through the performance. I just want to apologize to anyone who was sitting by me that I disturbed. None the less I'm going to try & see King Lear again when I feel better.

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  11. I am a huge BAM supporter but they can be, pardon the expression, real star fuckers. John Turturro's Master Builder and now this.. Both productions featured companies of forgettable and stiff actors who seemed lost and uninspired. This Lear was outdated and reminded me of a jokeless Christopher Guest parody-- why was everyone running off stage? Did the women have to wear maternity dresses? Instead of making choices or sinking into the complicated and universal emotional landscape of the play, everyone was just yelling.
    BAM should take a lesson out of the Next Wave Festival's interesting programming and commission an exciting 2014 take on this important play.

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  12. I agree with the other tepid responses; I gave this Lear a B-minus. Granted, Lear is an impossible play altogether, too big, too cosmic for most stages. For the best Lear experience I always go to Kurosawa's shattering film, Ran. That said, in this instance I thought the Fool especially good (and all the women, especially Cordelia, terrible). I agree that Langella overacted but I couldn't take my eyes off him for all the blustering and excessive shuffling senility, for all the lack of Lear-easque residual majesty. Although Langella may act like a star, he also actually IS a star. As to the touches of unnecessary naturalism, both in the acting and in the staging, I could have lived without that too. Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! does not need actual water pouring down if the acting is up to snuff. Instead of feeling pity and terror and sorrowing over the human condition, I was wondering what kind of clever plumbing had to be erected under the stage.

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  13. I wrote this last night right after the play but somehow lost in traveling home. So many people lament the speed at which the play moved, everyone seemed to be running, yet with all the play ran for three hours with a 15 minute intermission. It couldn't run that much longer. Not because the audience can't sit that long, but because the subject matter is so emotionally taxing. The play isn't primarily about misjudging your children, or not knowing who is giving sage advice, or the treachery ambition brings about; it is about the horrors of extreme old age. That is a topic everyone must confront, if not in themselves, than in their friends and loved ones. Any production of King Lear deserves kudos for courage no matter its flaws, none more than this one.
    The center of the play is the scene on the Heath in the storm where Lear confronts the reality of his situation. It is the most frightening single scene in Shakespeare, and that is saying quite a lot. It is here that Frank Langella shines. His performance dissects the deterioration of an aged Kings mind. All his preconceptions of what life was to be like. He finally begins to realize what his own actions have wrought. Everything else is diversion from the main point. Gloucester is well acted but he isn't credulous. Cordelia, Goneril, and Regan are interesting, but how do you portray blatant evil convincingly, or excessive goodness for that matter. Edmund is but another form of Iago but well played here, and Edward a little too Christlike.

    So many of us will suffer mental decline before death, and some the terrors of dementia. The play is so close that it singes the hair and the finger tips in the watching. Yes this production is loud and fast, and perhaps a little too graphically violent, but at its center it is terrifying. It teaches things we must know if we continue to live long lives. I was very impressed!

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  14. I attended the Jan. 9th performance. Though sitting in the rear of the gallery in the most uncomfortable of seating was itself distracting and contributed to a loss of fidelity in the performances, I found myself unmoved. Mr. Langella was quite good, and commanded the stage each moment he was on it. I do not think any of the performances were outstanding. The Fool seemed the most credulous of all the characters. Many others seemed wooden, recited rather more than exuded and infused with each actor's unique being.

    I was impressed by the rain. I did not expect to see that on this stage. But like one of the other commenters wrote, it was also a distraction from the more subtle emotions that were the crux of the scene. My mind was diverted from an emotional awareness to an analytical curiosity about the construction and plumbing of the set. And a wondering about who might slip.

    I agree that mental decline is a theme of King Lear. But it is mental decline coupled with the loss of many of his illusions about how others really felt toward him, and he toward they, that leads to much of his consternation. He didn't know how to deal with the reality behind these illusions that he was suddenly confronted with, these imaginary representations that many of us struggle with in real life, or more precisely and regrettably, realize only at the end of life. The king had to try to comprehend and process all of this in the midst of mental decline. Unfortunately, either due to the telescopic distance from which I observed and/or the largely detached, often pause-less deliveries, I didn't get much of a sense of this theme being examined with the sensitivity and detail I had hoped for and expected from the marketing that drew me to it.

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    1. Yes I was impressed with Langella AND the rain on stage! I too was in the gallery and yikes those seats get pretty uncomfortable. And even though I was RIVETED by Langella's performance I likened all the daughters performances to wall paper. And they need to PROJECT! I'm a young woman with great hearing and couldn't hear them when they spoke.

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  15. The minute I heard that Frank Langella was playing Lear at BAM, I bought tickets for my husband and myself. Langella is an actor whose work I have thrilled to over the years. His physical and emotional command of the stage is beyond anything I have ever experienced as a theatregoer. And he has a voice like a musical instrument. I saw his stage Dracula three times, at the very beginning of the show's run, in the middle and at the end. While the performances all around him wilted with repetition, Langella's performance renewed itself with vigor. By the end of the run, his towering presence was the only thing keeping that show together. And yet I was anxious about how he would fare with Lear, an almost impossible role. My husband and I have seen many productions of the show over the years, and while I have been impressed by some of the actors who have taken up the Lear challenge, in the end the productions have failed in some significant ways. But Langella has done it. His Lear, even on a Sunday afternoon, is a milestone in his career and in contemporary stage Lears. Shakespeare's incomparable lyrical and tragic depiction of the toll of time on human affairs, as soaring as it is, has always had one enormous deficit for me. It is so stunningly about a patriarch that it leaves women on the periphery of the discovery that no matter what we do, or say; no matter what others tell us about ourselves, we are not agueproof--a discovery women make too. And yet, Langella, despite the rich masculinity of his Lear, conjured theatre magic to give us a human Lear, that I too could find myself in. I am grateful to BAM for bringing this imcomparable actor to New York in this role. The stagecraft did Langella and Shakespeare justice,; it is spare, eloquent and almost flawless. And while the supporting cast varies in strength, talent, and electricity, as with any superior theatre experience, I left Langella's Lear a little changed by it.

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  16. We enjoyed Langella's Lear very much. And many of the supporting cast (especially Gloucester, Edmund, Edgar). The production was marvelous. We are all very glad to have seen this BAM presentation. More, more, more!


    But I have to add that for us four persons, all senior citizens (ranging from 68-82), it was a rotten shock to find that we had to climb almost 70 stairs to reach our seats. The BAM literature and site should make absolutely clear that balcony seats are reached only by making that staggering climb. Furthermore, the seating in the balcony is an insult to the human frame. The seats are hard, and reach only to mid-thigh, and one's feet do not reach the ground, but must perch through the show on a footrest or dangle. Most uncomfortable.

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    1. Hello Rufus, we're very glad you enjoyed the show, but sorry the climb to the gallery came as a surprise. We are making an effort to communicate this in a clearer way for all shows at the Harvey moving forward. Thanks for your feedback!

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  17. Thanks to Rufus Hallmark for bringing the Annapurna-like climb to the Gallery to the attention of BAM's management. I am 80 and had a pulmonary embolism that left me with scarred lungs, and still had to lumber up all those stairs. Granted, the ticket said something about a staircase, but I had no idea that it would be the only way to get to my seat or that it would be so long. Well, in the words of Lear, never. never. never (again). I'll know better from now on when anything is at the Harvey Theater. But yes, BAM should put a warning on its web site for anyone contemplating buying tickets in the Gallery that it's a long, steep, pitiless climb.

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  18. We saw the matinee performance on January 12. Langella was excellent, more memorable than either Jacobi or McKellan in their recent BAM appearances in the same role. As noted in previous comments, Cordelia did not appear ready for her role. But my venom will be directed to the audience: Twice cellphone tunes serenaded the action (one visibly disturbing Mr. Langela, the other chiming away during his melancholy last speech to Cordelia). BAM may assume that its audience is a group of sophisticated theatergoers that transcend warnings to stifle their electronic gizmos. They aren't: Warn them, please.

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  19. LANGELLA'S FIERCE AND FRAGILE LEAR ... heard now with these middle-aged ears and felt with a heart attuned by time. Vanity, greed, betrayal, anguish, grief, rage, cruelty, tenderness, redemption. They're all up there on stage in Frank's performance -- in his voice, his face, his hands -- and now, in here, too.

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  20. I never liked Lear, but Frank Langella made me a believer. What a performance from a wonderful actor. I also thought Edmund and Edgar were excellent; I loved the spare set, and I liked the rain! I am a tourist from California and had never been to BAM--I had a good time. What I appreciated (almost as much as Mr. Langella's incredible voice) was how the ushers booted out a couple who had been taking photos during the first half. Good job there.

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  22. I have seen a few productions on stage and film and never enjoyed them much and so when another usually British star does it I skip it. It's usually a long grim slog.

    Being a longtime admirer of Frank Langella I set aside those reservations and went to The Harvey Theater last night and was surprisingly overwhelmed.

    This was such an entertaining fast paced visually commanding production with a lot of humor. Director Angus Jackson created such compelling images with his placement of the actors combined with the inspired set, costumes, lighting and sound. The wood, the reds, the floor tiles, the rain.

    The ensemble were all talented and suited their roles. I was in Row H and heard everyone loud and clear.

    Frank Langella was towering in size and scope and with this performance he achieves another landmark in his legendary career. His physicality began as majestic and ended as decrepit. His voice was theatrically commanding and varied slightly from it's usual tone and never was "grand" faux British. His mental deterioration was poignant and his weeping over Cordelia was so moving and unforgettable.

    To have seen him as Dracula and 36 years later in this ignited many thoughts about the passage of time. For him at 75 to succeed in this first in England is typical of his bold risk taking.

    The best King Lear I have seen and the first time I got the play.

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  23. Agree 100% about Isabella Laughland. I expect nothing but excellence from a British company doing Shakespeare. There are gazillions of competent actors so there's no excuse for allowing her on a stage until she improves. As for Langella, I have seen many Lears, and better Lears. Only Christopher Plummer's was weaker. At the beginning of the play he reminded me of King Friday XIII on Mister Rogers Neighborhood (and Albany sounded like Dudley Do-Right). But I'll admit that the scene with him cradling Gloucester was heart breaking. I did like most of the production values except for the cheap sound effects. Couldn't they cast a real trumpeter? And as for the acoustics, I had no trouble whatsoever (I was seat in Row O off the extreme side aisle) except when that selfish cow opposite me started opening a cellophane wrapped snack. Thank God she was gone by the 2nd act.

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    1. I saw King Lear last night in row o; sorry the acoustics were terrible though i have to say not as bad as in Macbeth. And I am the "cow" who sat on the opposite of fatso who rudely left his seat before the end of act 1. Why in some productions work acoutically; think Julius Caesar at St Ann's or Twelfe Night. I left, along with others, because I was not enjoying the mumbling of actors who should be able to speak clearly to the top row. Sorry Frank, I came to see you and was disappointed.

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    2. I totally agree with your comment about Isabella Laughland. As an actress I was astounded she landed that role AND had such a GIFT in acting opposite Langella and didn't take advantage of it. In act II when King Lear recognizes his daughter she was so lack luster I was let down, she was emotionless. Boring. Wallpaper.

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  24. Cecil Oberbeck - I treated my daughter a big fan of Langela and we were not disappointed. We sat in the balcony and were please that the actors projected their lines well. A first live Lear for me and I was fascinated by all that was in the play & during intermission bought a copy. Both of us experienced a terrific evening.

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  25. I've followed Mr. Langella's career for nearly 30 years. I had the privilege of seeing him often when I was young and worked at a restaurant he favored in midtown. I've seen him in dozens of shows both in New York and London and more films. I'm delighted that he was proud of Robot and Frank as that is one gem of a little picture that I very much favor. I have watched Mr. Langella's career evolve as he has moved from leading man to brilliant character actor and at each step of the way marveled at his exquisite talent.

    His Lear, surprised me, saddened me, shocked me and annoyed me. As ever he is larger than life, a perfect choice for the mad king. I am envious of the young actors who have the opportunity to share the stage with such a legend. If I were to have a single criticism, it's that Mr. Langella is so powerful, so commanding, he washes out anyone on the stage with him unless they too have that presence.

    At any rate I want to thank the company and BAM for an extraordinary evening of theatre and I want to thank Mr. Langella for sharing his ever expanding comprehension of the human spirit in such an honest light. How delightful to see Mr. Langella and the great Cherry Jones regress to their childhoods all in the same theatre season.

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  26. Enjoyed the show in general but could not understand Frank Langella. Enjoyed the staging and thought it was a very a great production but was very unhappy about missing a lot of dialogue.

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  27. I saw the production last night and was also disappointed. I'd never seen Lear performed live. I expected much more from a British company. Langella at times moved me but I didn't feel his performance, his presence on stage the way I'd expected to. Edmond was the best performer (gestures, delivery spot on; strong presence) though he also had the easiest lines to deliver and youth has its advantages. Lear is 1000x more challenging. In any case Edmond's spark on stage was welcome among the other uninspired performances. The long blocks of wood in the set design seemed to mirror the rather wooden performances and blocking. This brought down what could have been more inspired performances of Edgar and the Fool and perhaps also Regan. Goneril was painful to listen to, as if she had to speak past a sore throat. Overall it could have been better directed. This has made me curious to see what a great Lear production is like.

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  28. A boring and disappointing performance. Very hard to understand many dialogs.

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  29. The production as a whole - the effects, lighting, stage, etc. were top notch professional and engaging. BUT we could not hear the actors. Throw in the fact that not everyone knows the play back and forth - and that Shakespeare requires a heightened state of attention - and the play becomes incredibly difficult to follow. That said, Langella slays it.

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  30. I was deeply moved by Frank Langella's performance. This is a chew-the-furniture part and he howled when appropriate and was restrained when the part called for it. I have a difficult time with English accents and I thought this was one of the few times when the actors enunciated the words so that I could understand them. The production values were outstanding. I do agree the women were weak, particularly Cordelia. But it didn't detract from the play because Langella simply commands the stage, he is such a commanding presence.

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  31. One of the most memorable performances of a Shakespearean tragic hero I've ever experienced.
    I cannot believe the stamina of Mr. Langella; this was certainly a demanding role in every way.

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  32. Magnificent in every way. Frank Langella proves he is the premiere American actor of our time, and among the finest internationally, Angus Jackson and the "Lear" company perform a bona fide tragedy that moves to pity. It is a Pantheon production. I wrote a longer, more detailed comment but WordPress ate it. Kudos to Chichester, BAM, Mr. Langella, Mr. Jackson, Lauren O'Neil, Max Bennett, Sebastian Armesto, Harry Mellins, Steven Pacey, and Chu Omambala for their monumental achievement.

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  33. Either 36 or 37 years ago, my aunt Gert took my cousin Michael & me to see Frank Langella in "Dracula" on Broadway. Langella was my first Broadway "crush" - in a word, WOW. So when I read that the great man was going to be Lear at BAM, I made a note to get the three of us the best seats possible for what was sure to be an amazing evening. And man oh man, it sure was. Frank, you still got it. I hope my aunt and cousin also comment here.

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  34. I was completely enraptured by this production. Thank God there was no modern fancying up, or "bells & whistles"; just basic straight-ahead. It was clear as a bell. I agree with several others: Cordelia was pretty amateurish, but the rest were flawless. My seat was perfect, and the whole audience was like one person sharing the thrill.

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  35. OH, meant to commend the Chichester Theater Festival players as well. I love that theater, was lucky enough to see Edward Petherbridge in "The Power & the Glory" there in 1990 (took the train from London there then back & out to a business training in Hythe - comparable to seeing a play in the Berkshires then back via NYC to a training in the Hamptons, but well worth the hike). And inquiring minds want to know (specifically, my significant other): What props did you use to effect that sickening splattering effect for Gloucester's eyes? Finally, lovely stage setup for that brilliant rainstorm (reminded us of this past summer's "Rain Room" at MoMA, only without the eight-hour wait on line).

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  36. Looking at the comments here on Cordelia, I wanted to say that I felt, looking back over the entire play, that the actress's somewhat flat delivery may have been a conscious performance choice. In fact, her cadences of speech at times reminded me of those of Samuel Barnett as boy-playing-girl-playing-boy Viola in Mark Rylance's "Twelfth Night" (another Shakespeare performance I was lucky enough to see this season). Granted, Barnett's performance exuded passion even through stilted propriety. But aren't we, like Lear, supposed to be frustrated with a Cordelia who can't express her feelings passionately/casually? Just sayin'.

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  37. At Saturday's matinee performance, Langella was utterly spellbinding. My wife and I literally wept at the end, in Lear's embrace of Cordelia's body.

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  38. I saw the Saturday Jan. 18th matinee as well. Great performance by Mr. Langella, and I thoroughly enjoyed the performances by the actors who played Gloucester, Edgar, and the Fool. The actress who played Cordelia was lackluster though, seemed to just be plainly reading memorized lines - very little feeling in her performance. The actor who played Albany overdid it, in my opinion, his voice was twice as loud as any of the other male actors. Still, it was a great production.

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  39. Quite simply, the best Lear I have ever seen, and I've seen many stagings, including Derek Jacobi's fine rendering at BAM. My wife and I were both in tears by the end. Langella is a great, one of the greatest Lears, the hardest role in the Shakespeare canon. And his articulation was perfect. I heard every word distinctly. So I'm struck by all the complaints from those who said that they could not hear. Blame the acoustics not the actors.

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  40. We saw the January 19th performance of Frank Langella in King Lear. The five of us enjoyed the performance immensely. After making our way up to the gallery, finding our not very comfortable seats, then wondering if we should make our way back down to find hearing devices, we can tell you that the acoustics were better than most seats we have had in this auditorium. There was no need to guess at the words for even the three sisters and the rain and storm got through to us. Bravo!

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  41. It was disappointing in that we could not get to the performance because of the storm. Hope to see it soon.

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    1. Oh no! We're so sorry you couldn't make it. Please contact BAM Ticket Services at 718.636.4100 x1 or http://www.bam.org/contact/bam-ticket-services to arrange an exchange for a later performance. We don't want you to miss seeing this just because of some nasty weather.

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  42. It was always a mystery to me why we were assigned King Lear as a study text at high school. Its mixture of panic and petulance brought on by looming end-of-life dementia holds absolutely no resonance for the adolescent mind.

    What a difference to see it now, as one approaches one’s 60th birthday!

    It is not because we identify with the doddering old king (that fate is still 25 years away, one hopes) but because we completely understand the position his daughters are in. The audience at BAM for Frank Langella was full of babyboomers, absolutely Lear’s demographic sweet spot. We saw it on the very night that the just-widowed father of a close friend (and contemporary) had been found dead at home.

    For the babyboomer in the audience, the structural problem of the play is that Lear’s theatrical family has skipped a generation. His daughters are not our peers. Granted, the play is not a domestic family drama, and should not be tasked with attempting a realistic portrayal of middle-aged adults coping with the logistics of parental dotage. Nonetheless the babyboomers’ role vis-à-vis the aged monarch is not represented. The love triangle of Goneril-Edmund-Regan belongs to the generation of the babyboomers’ own children. And Cordelia is the ingénue.

    The Langella production solves this problem by its insightful treatment of the Gloucester sub-plot. Instead of casting Gloucester as Lear’s (slightly stupid, Polonius-like) contemporary, he becomes the representative of the babyboom generation, and it is in his relationship with Edgar that the push-and-pull between adult child and infirmed parent is played out fully. The suicide scene on the cliffs is this production’s most intimate and emotionally resonant.

    This shift in the emotional center of gravity of the play liberates Langella from the task of playing out a father-daughter psychodrama. His Lear goes straight to the cosmic and existential -- straight to the heath. Here is the second point of clarity in this production, when Lear, Fool, Tom, and Kent assemble. It succeeds in making each of the four distraught and desperate in his own way (Besides, Gloucester, Kent is the other babyboomer in the play, and his distress at Lear’s distress is generationally appropriate).

    The key to both of these scenes -- on the heath and on the cliff -- is Edgar. He projects Tom’s abject poverty as a distinct form of desperation, and Edgar’s filial love as insightful, more than merely dutiful.

    So often in a production of King Lear, the gaudy lure of the role of Edmund attracts all the attention, distorting the dramatic balance both between brothers and across generations. Hats off to Sebastian Armesto for making sure the balance is right -- and thus for giving Langella the space he needs to strut his stuff.

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  43. My husband and I saw this last night. Over all I give it a B+.
    I have read Lear many times but never had an opportunity to see it. ( Almost saw it with Nigel Hawthore in London but got sick so had to stay home) I thought the cast was solid and I particularly enjoyed the boys ( Edgar, Edmund) and Gloucester.
    I have seen Langella many times on stage and I consider him a master. He brings an uncanny human quality to his performances that tear at my heart strings every time. Last night he did the same with his performance. Since I have not seen the play and only read it, my interpretation of Lear was very different from what I saw last night and I ended up liking his character much more than I expected. However, and in my opinion this is a huge problem and I am surprised that not many have commented on this, but I couldn't understand what Langella was saying about 50% of the time. It was very frustrating. Maybe I need to get my hearing checked. What I could understand was fantastic!

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  44. I would like a full refund of the $76.50 I paid, or a voucher for said amount for a future performance of something else at BAM. This production of KING LEAR was a disappointment.

    The production lacked any specificity. It was general, and anything general is boring. The costumes, set, lighting and sound did not create a specific environment, nor did they play a supportive role in the storytelling.
    They were not evocative of any specific time & place, which is useful in emotionally and intellectually grounding the story in an engaging circumstance that an audience can relate to.

    Furthermore I did not see human beings on stage. Human beings have agency. We experience relationship, exhibit behavior, listen to one another, pay close attention or fail to do so - to our own peril, think, scheme, weigh right and wrong, experience internal conflict, struggle with fear and doubt, take action, come up against external conflict, experience cause and effect and either succeed or fail in our pursuits. Humans are fueled by desires, recognizable ones, we experience emotions, we shape our thoughts and give voice to our emotions by using (when the text is Shakespeare's) the choicest of words. We make choices! Human beings are complicated.

    What I saw on stage was a group of wind up dolls passively traveling down their preordained paths; their obstacles, struggles, and outcomes determined, known and accepted. Nothing unknown. No danger. No risk. No choices. And thus no excitement. I saw actors acting and what I wanted to see was characters in relationship to one another, human beings at their fullest, exercising their free will in the given circumstances, in conflict, in action, in success and failure, in triumph and heartbreak, in surprise and ultimately in awe of their human condition, which is what LEAR gets at, out there on the heath with Poor Tom naked, shivering, curled up in front of him in fetal position.

    It is the responsibility of the director to unite all the components necessary to get life from a play: from production design to assisting actors in crafting compelling characterizations, forging meaningful relationships between those characters, and creating circumstances filled with dramatic tension, all in the pursuit of telling a specific and meaningful story. The director of this production failed to do so, leaving the actors exposed and having to work hard to inject life into the play, which is an exercise in futility.

    It is dangerous to do a mediocre production of a great play. People are told, learn, and accept that some plays are considered classics, and are considered classics for good reason. They have a value that has stood the test of time, be it the Greeks, Shakespeare, or your example of choice. The classics shine a light on the human condition in a way that has moved, inspired and challenged audiences for centuries. An audience member walks into the theater with an expectation he or she is going to see something great. Something worthy of being called a classic, something worthy of respect. So, the artists undertaking the endeavor have a great responsibility, and skirting this responsibility results in putting an audience member off of plays from the classical cannon. Work like this reduces a great play to an old play.

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  45. Frank Langella is amazing as King Lear! He brought a certain magnitude and passion that was needed for title role. The other actors were good; however, Langella stood in a class of his own. Really great performance!

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  46. Frank Langella is amazing as King Lear. The other actors were good; however, Langella is in a class of his own with this play. I agree the sound and effects were a bit much. Langella brings a certain magnitude and passion to this play that is needed for the title role. Great performance by Langella

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  47. Frank Langella was magnificent !! The entire company was beyond amazing!! It ran the gamut of so many emotions .......sorrow, joy, betrayal, comedy, despair, love and a bit of sarcasm to boot. It was excellent........I enjoyed it immensely.

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  48. We were disappointed. Most of this disappointment related to the inability to hear many large segments of dialogue, particularly when the female characters were speaking. True we were in the very last row of the upper orchestra (right up against the sound board). However the tickets were not discounted and while there were notices on the web site that certain seats had limited views, there were no notices that certain hundred dollar seats had limited sound! Since the roles of the three sisters are pivotal not being able to hear what they were saying considerably compromised our enjoyment of the play. Is this theater too big for Shakespeare? We have had a similar problem with straight plays given in the cavernous Broadway houses and as a consequence will rarely consider a straight play on Broadway. Had there been surtitles, perhaps everyone in the house might have been able to comprehend what was happening on stage? Sound amplification might also have helped everyone hear the play. This was my first production at the Harvey theater. Given the cost of getting there from Philadelphia, I will not undertake such a trip again unless there is an amazing production and I can get seats that are closer. Even though I am near the same age as Lear, my hearing acuity (just tested) is more than adequate to hear properly projected speech from the stage of a house the size of the Harvey theater.

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  49. I agree with many of the comments here, though none more than Andrew Tyndall. I saw this play last as a college student with Morris Carnofsky playing Lear. How much more meaningful it is now that I am a grandfather and have watched my own children and their varying relationships to me. The language of the play is even more remarkable than I remember it, and Langella and the cast do a wonderful job in expressing its nuances from the ribald and funny to the sentimental and sad. That said, the voices of the women left me sometimes feeling a bit hard of hearing form where I sat in row R of the orchestra. And I could not always believe that they inhabited their characters as much as I did the men. But it is Frank Langella who makes this production come alive and his bravura performance is on target. Yes, he's more spry and less tottering than one might expect Lear to be in the days when Shakespeare wrote about him,but he's the way we might expect him to be in our day. This is not a perfect production, but it's far better than most of the plays we can see around NYC these days and well worth the price.

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  50. Attended with my daughters! We laughed a little, smiled often, and cried even more. Master Shakespeare is alive and well thanks to the courageous actors who breath life into his characters. Thank you for a memorable day!

    Teresa Salvatore
    January 27, 2014

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  51. Bought tickets to see Mr. Langella as the King and was not disappointed. Edmund and the Fool were also very well done! Overall very happy with the entire show.

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  52. Loved it! I am a professional actor. Attended Jan 28, front row center section of gallery. I had never seen Lear before and made a point of not reading any reviews beforehand. I thought it a terrific production directed with great pace and clarity. Perhaps the acoustics differ a lot depending on seat position but I was pleasantly surprised to hear every word clearly - something that I am most particular about. Langella was superb as were most of the cast. The emphasis seemed to be first and foremost on telling the story clearly. The actress playing Cordelia was a bit weak but it didn't bother me too much as it made the character appear more pathetic. I was quite shocked at some of the very negative comments above though I have found in my profession that Shakespeare is so over intellectualized, over analysed and overthought that every production becomes flawed. Thank you also to all the efficient BAM staff. Well done.

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  53. I'm sorry to say I thought this Lear production to be totally mediocre in every conceivable way--and that includes directing, acting, staging, design, music, and, I'm sorry to say, the estimable Frank Langella himself. It was, sadly, a sad surprise.

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    1. I agree. Not what we are used to expect from BAM. Especially since we traveled from San Juan to face this weather. Lesr was no better. Too bad!

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  54. Excellent production. Langella very believable and moving. This production made the plot very clear - this is not always the case with LEAR. I, too, thought the actress playing Cordelia was perhaps miscast. The other performances were all very strong, though I can understand the comments about vocal projection. I was sitting close to the stage, so I could hear quite well. I could also see the details of the costumes - most impressive and - to me - not "general." I was not familiar with LEAR until I saw the two recent versions at BAM. I think it is wonderful to mount such different productions in a short time period - gives us a lot to think about, more with each outing.

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  55. Such a masterful performance from Langella. I attempted to see him 35 years ago when he starred in 'Dracula' on Broadway, but, alas, his understudy performed that night. Thanks to a Christmas gift from my daughter, we were able to see him in BAM's production of 'Lear.' Langella did not disappoint. He silently roars onto the stage, the layers of his character peel before your eyes, and the horrors of old age embrace his face and body language. He commands the stage every moment he's on. I thought Gloucester was wonderful, emoting loyalty and friendship with a potent ease. Edmund, Edgar, the Fool....all good. I especially liked the way Langella's Lear embraced both the Fool and Gloucester with such sentimental physicality. The daughters were very disappointing. Cordelia seemed quite miscast and the other two seemed one dimensional....only evil, nothing more. But, never mind. Langella steals the show in a most enjoyable, talented, heart rendering way. So glad I finally got to see this great actor on stage. Truly a memorable performance.

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  56. enjoyable. Langella's boom box does not carry as far as Jacobi's whisper I'm afraid.

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  57. It is difficult in this day and age, even for the Royal Family, to relate to what it was like to have family members LITERALLY stabbing each other in the eyes, and vying for power. But many can still relate to inheritance spats and, more relevant to this production, "Dad (or blank) is a demented, horse's ass and who's going to take care of him?" Langella's performance, although perhaps missing nuance in language, went to that place poignantly, of both an ornery and a pitiful man, in which both he and the audience with him receive and experience flashes of a softening heart. The forgiveness scene between Lear and Cordelia was one of the most tender moments I've ever seen in the theater. I don't know what an uncut version looks like - I felt as if the first half moved by too quickly and that may be cause for why language nuance was lost. But if you were looking for mastery of Shakespeare, Harry Melling as the fool was both clear spoken and vocally soulful. Despite complaints in other comments that the set was distracting, I prefer sophisticated tech used supportively to a director's conceit of putting the play in some sort of modernized historical context to help the audience 'relate.' The set was brilliant, artful, naturalist; the costumes beautiful, and the use of water and all the elements stunning. As my first King Lear, I was grateful to see a 'traditional' one.

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  58. This was my third Lear. I had seen Christopher Plummer and Ian McKellen play the part. This production was good, but overall it could not compare to the exceptional one with McKellen.
    Frank Langella was “every inch a king!“ And his hurt at being mistreated by his daughters was heartbreakingly genuine. The staging was also quite clever. But I must say that the actress playing Cordelia was out of her depth in the part. She did not imbue her lines with life. When Cordelia told her father that she had “nothing” to say, she came off as dimwitted and apathetic. As a consequence, Lear’s disappointment and outrage appeared to be justified. Yet ironically, because of her youth and inability to match the performance level of the rest of the cast, it made the misfortunes her character suffered seem somehow more cruel. I do believe Mr. Langella tempered his performance a bit when interacting with her, so his Lear would not look like a bully and lose the audience’s sympathy.

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  59. Glorified summer stock: every line shouted, every scene hurried along with much noise and special effects lest the audience be bored, trite set, no interpretation. And there was a weird electronic feedback noise in the second act for which we all should have gotten our money back. Many of the most significant theater artists in the world make their homes in Brooklyn. Why does Bam largely import these lacquered, weary road shows?

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