I'm tired of being bored to tears by histrionic Shakespeare or bored to death by sloppy contemporary Shakespeare," said director Peter Ellenstein, whose production of King Lear opens Aug. 25 at the Met Theatre. "There is a thrilling but rarely achieved blending of passion and poetry where great Shakespeare not only lives and flourishes but changes people's lives. That's the experience I'm trying to create. There is no other reason to do Shakespeare!"
For the last eight months the Los Angeles Repertory Company has been working on this production of King Lear. Obviously, Ellenstein has strong ideas how Shakespeare should be performed. "It should be a visceral experience," he said. "Most Shakespeare I've seen is dreary -- either beautiful words without any heart, or plenty of heart but unintelligible. Shakespeare is a foreign language; in order to do it right, the actors must become fluent translators for the audience. Once the language is conquered they can act up a storm. In Lear's case, literally."
Starring as Lear is Peter Ellenstein's father, Robert. Their last collaboration, the multiple award-winning production of Rocket to the Moon, sparked a renewed interest in Clifford Odets in southern California.
This will be Peter Ellenstein's last production with L.A. Rep before leaving Los Angeles for the East Coast. He hopes to make Lear his crowning achievement.
The drama plays through Oct. 3 at the Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford St. For tickets and information call (323) 782-5565. -- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent