The Shakespeare Theatre Company of New Jersey presents Davis — a veteran of TV's "The Nanny," on which he played butler Niles — as aging Lear, who splits his kingdom between his corrupt daughters, leading to his doom.
Artistic director Bonnie J. Monte directs at the troupe's main stage, the F. M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Avenue, on the campus of Drew University in Madison.
Davis' Broadway credits include The Frogs, The Invention of Love and La Cage aux Folles, as well as Wrong Mountain, for which he was Tony-nominated.
King Lear performances continue to July 27.
The cast includes Erin Partin as Cordelia, Kristie Dale Sanders as Goneril, Victoria Mack as Regan, Edmond Genest as Gloucester, Marcus Dean Fuller as Edmund, Kevin Isola as Edgar, Ames Adamson as the Earl of Kent and Seamus Mulcahy as Lear's Fool with Nathan Kaufman Matt Bradford Sullivan, Scott Whitehurst, Fisher Neal, Derrick LeMont Sanders, Dan Lendzian, John Mulcahy, Nick Nappo, Craig Bazan and Tyler Eglen. "I decided to direct King Lear because I had a great actor for the title role who wanted to swim in its waters with me, and because it is a play that is so resonant for our time," director Monte said in production notes. "It is, after all, about a world completely out of balance, awash in chaos, and leaderless. It is about many other things as well, and indeed, because it explores the whole experience of human existence, it is ultimately unfathomable. Somehow, however, it manages to capture that full experience, and therefore, it is also priceless. I wanted to take on the challenge of this towering Mt. Everest of plays, and make my audience feel what I feel when I read the play."
Creating the world of King Lear are set designer Marion Williams, costume designer Clint Ramos, lighting designer Steve Rosen and sound designer Karin Graybash. Broadway veteran Rick Sordelet serves as fight director. Alison Cote is the production stage manager.
Monte explained in program notes, "It is a symbolic masterpiece — making no apology for its presentation of a universe constructed of landscapes, and peopled by creatures — representing the most universal, eternal, archetypal icons of the ages. I encourage you to abandon logic, and yield to its abstract expression. It is a tale of beings so ancient, or so far ahead, that they meet at some simultaneous dimension beyond time or place. The play seems to happen more in an internal location than a realistic, chronological or geographic one. It rattles us and moves us because it takes place inside the eternal, common plane — the collective unconscious and the collective heart. It crumbles our structures — familial, social, natural, political and philosophical — and in the wake of that destruction, we watch many people, not just Lear, embark on various journeys of survival, self-examination, self-annihilation, illumination and redemption."
Performances are Tuesdays-Sundays. Tickets range from $29 to $53 depending on performance day and time and seat location.
For tickets or more information call (973) 408-5600 or visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org.