The hailed British director's full-text rendering of the play runs more than three hours, but for those who don't need all the action (and all the primal nudity), an abbreviated version will play in rep during the Jan. 14-Feb. 8 run at the Center for Dramatic Art in Chapel Hill.
"We are very excited that Mark Wing-Davey has chosen to stage a virtually complete version of the full First Folio text of Shakespeare's King Lear, providing our audiences a rare opportunity to see this version of the play in its entirety, with all of its stunning imagery, variety, and dramatic juxtaposition," artistic director David Hammond said in production notes. "The performances of the complete version will run slightly over three hours. For audience members who do not wish to see the complete First Folio text we will also offer an abridged version of the production, running under two hours. We hope that critics will review both versions, as they will be substantially different theatre experiences. The production of the complete First Folio version will also contain nudity, something which is certainly justified by the text. The nudity will be omitted in the abridged version."
The role of the mad King is played by Michael Winters.
"For some time, [actor] Michael Winters and I wanted to tackle Lear," Wing-Davey said in notes. "After our production of Galileo, we discussed how interesting and exciting it would be to do a very compact version of this play — something around an hour and three-quarters — driving right to the heart of the story with only the bare essentials of the text. But then I thought, 'This may be my only chance to direct King Lear! What if I could assemble a company of actors and designers gifted enough to do two versions of the play — one abridged version, and one that would allow us to present the complete text? Then people could choose which version they wanted to see, or perhaps see both.' It is a distinct privilege to direct King Lear at PlayMakers with such a distinguished company of actors and designers."
For this production, the international designers and director "wanted to create an industrial world reminiscent of the former Soviet Union between the 1940s and the 1970s. The world of the play is meant to be quite cruel and shocking." Obie Award winning British director Mark Wing-Davey recently directed Shakespeare's Henry V at the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Delacorte in Central Park. The son of actor Peter Davey and actress Anna Wing, Wing-Davey is a director, actor and teacher who, from 1988-1990, served as artistic director of the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, where he originated the project about the Rumanian Revolution that became Caryl Churchill’s internationally award-winning play, Mad Forest.
Mad Forest played in London at the Royal Court Theatre, and brought him to prominence in the US with his highly acclaimed, award-winning 1992 production at the New York Theatre Workshop. It won a 1992 Village Voice Obie Award for Wing-Davey as Outstanding Director of the year.
King Lear's designers are Britain's Narelle Sissons (sets), Romania's Marina Draghici (costumes), Mary Louise Geiger (lighting) and M. Anthony Reimer (sound design). The ensemble cast includes Michael Winters (Lear, King of Britain), Michael Babbitt (Duke of Cornwall); Carolyn Baeumler (Regan); John Feltch (Edgar); Charles Parnell (Edmond); Karen Walsh (Cordelia); Jeffrey West (Oswald) and company members Ray Dooley (Fool), Jeffrey Blair Cornell (Duke of Albany) and Kenneth P. Strong (Earl of Kent).
This is guest actor Michael Winters' first appearance with PlayMakers. He is a regular with many companies across the country, including the Oregon Shakespearean Festival, Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts, American Conservatory Theatre, Denver Center Theatre Company and elsewhere.
For information, call (919) 962-PLAY or visit www.PlayMakersRep.org.