William Shakespeare's King Lear is a familiar tale of kingdom and family falling apart under the strains of old age, but how did the characters get to such a place where disintegration and madness came so easily? British playwright Howard Barker's Seven Lears, in its New York debut March 17-April 8 at Metro Playhouse, raises Lear from a child who has just lost his twin brother to the beginning of Shakespeare's tragedy, dissecting the family along the way.
Barker found the absence of a mention of Lear's wife the focal point for his play. Who was this woman who didn't warrant one thought during Shakespeare's drama? How had she come to be so hated? Barker is the author of some 27 plays, which have been produced all over the world. Among the works in his self-titled "Theater of Catastrophe" are Claw, Victory, Scenes from an Execution, A Hard Heart and Judith.
Rod McLucas directs Juniper Berolzheimer, Lisa Blankenship, Tom Epstein, Ahron H. Foster, Matt Frederick, Matt Lavin, Erin O'Leary, Dan Renkin, Mark Rimer, J. Max Sullivan and Sarah Trelease.
Designing Lears are Harry Mattheu (sets), Rych Curtis (lighting), adobe theatre's Meganne George (costumes) and the Wooster Group's Mark Huang (sound).
Tickets are $12. Metro Playhouse is located at 220 East 4th Street. For information and reservations, call (212) 462-9279. Monster[less] Actors, currently presenting Lears, were formed in January of 1995. Past productions have included John Patrick Shanley's Savage in Limbo, Caryl Churchill's Traps and The After Dinner Joke, Jeffrey Jones 70 Scenes of Halloween and Constance Congdon's Tales of the Lost Formicans.
-- By Christine Ehren