By Jim TortolanoGarden Grove Journal
The price of flattery is never higher than in William Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of King Lear.” Seeking to assure himself of the love of his children, Lear sets in motion a chain of events that ruins lives and reputations.
Lear goes through a series of emotionally wrenching changes, and it’s difficult to imagine anyone portraying those agonizing steps better than Dennis Krausnick, the esteemed Shakespearean actor who is at the center of an excellent production now at the Festival Amphitheatre in Garden Grove.
As directed by Tom Bradac, Shakespeare Orange County’s staging of “Lear” boasts a completely solid cast, highlighted by a bravura performance by Krausnick. He glides smoothly from preening to rage to agony. He also displays a deft comedic touch, too. It’s difficult not to smile watching a classically-trained actor dressed in what amounts to a diaper.
“Lear” is a story from pre-Christian (perhaps even pre-Roman) times in England. An aging monarch decides to retire, splitting his kingdom among his three daughters. The division will be based, in large part, on how flowery a proclamation of filial love each daughter slathers on Lear. When one daughter finds herself unable to indulge Lear’s need for excessive flattery, the plan careens into disaster.
This production sparkles with SOC veterans and new faces. To single out the impressive performers is to name nearly everyone, but Carl Reggiardo’s Earl of of Kent is especially memorable, as are Michael Nehring as the Earl of Gloucester, Marissa Pistone as Cordelia and Alyssa Bradac as a fool.
Overall, the show was nearly flawless, the sole small glitch taking place during one of the play’s finest moments. In an otherwise impressive scene, thunder and lightning are convincingly effected, but the noise was so great that some of the dialogue was lost, at least to those of us sitting in the far reaches of the amphitheater.
The complexity of the plot and the denseness of the language means that this is serious English Lit.
The placing of a synopsis in the program was a wise move. The level of violence in the play, especially a scene where one character has his eyes plucked out makes this show not suitable for tender hearts.
But if you are one who can appreciate a major league production with a superstar in the lead, you will find what you’re looking for on Main Street through Sept. 18.
For ticket and other information, go to www.shakespeareoc.org.