banner-2 reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

William Shakespeare’s King Lear is a large-scale story – a calamitous yarn of kings and courts, battlements and precipices. Usually one would expect such an outsized tale to be performed on a full sized stage, in a grand setting. One part of the magic of First Folio Production’s offering of the play is that we are invited to witness all of this on Studio 15’s compact stage. Director Carey Shea has styled his production to not only fit the confines, but indeed, in some ways to expand it.

Bolstered with a fine sound design by Tristan Ross, and colorful costuming by Dianna Mosedale, Shea’s King Lear comes across in fine stead, asking the audience to use some of their imagination skills, something I am always pleased to note. The set, consisting of four rotating panels, plus an added chair or banner or rock, is suitable for this simpler telling of a complex account. Shea’s cast of actors more than rises to the occasion, delivering fully developed characterizations and clear story-telling – their excellent diction being one highlight of their endeavors.

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Cordelia (Ann Marie Elliott) watches her father King Lear (David Mosedale) in Bard Fest’s “King Lear”

David Mosedale takes on the difficult title role. He proves to be up to the task, delivering a well conceived depiction, skillfully balancing Lear’s wisdom, emotion and madness. Ann Marie Elliott is lovely in the dual role of Cordelia and her posing as the Fool. She conveys the gentle nature of both with aplomb. Likewise, Doug Powers’ Kent shows the strength of being his own man with a definitive performance. Craig Kemp plays Gloucester with clear purpose – we never doubt his intention to do what is right. Zach Stonerock does a masterful job with Gloucester’s son Edgar, driven to madness in his exile. Matt Anderson gives Albany a full depiction, as both hen-pecked husband and courageous loyalist.

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Goneril (Sarah Frehlke) comforts a dying Edmound (Bradford Reilly) in Bard Fest’s “King Lear”

Shakespeare floods the stage with evil-doers: Goneril and Reagen, the two unscrupulous daughters of the king, are given due portrayals by Sarah Froehlke and Beth Clark, conniving and dishonest. Bradford Reilly shows special talent as the slick opportunist, Edmound, while Tristan Ross plays the large and threatening Cornwall with an apt fierceness.

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Edgar (Zach Stonerock) tends to his blinded father Gloucester (Craig Kemp) in Bard Fest’s “King Lear”

Bottomline: a thoughtful production design coupled with a highly talented cast are assets in bringing a difficult play to life. This is a wonderful opportunity to see a top-notch production of a rarely produced masterpiece.

King Lear continues as part of the 2nd annual Bard Fest, currently running through October 30th at Carmel Theatre Company’s Studio 15. Productions of Twelfth Night and Coriolanus are also offered during the festival. For information about the schedule and ticket sales go to http://brownpapertickets.com/ and search events in Carmel IN, or call the box office at 317-688-8876.

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