A Delicious Double Dose of “Lear” with star actors at Antaeus

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If there’s anything better than a talented actor nailing the title role in “King Lear,” it’s two great actors doing so on a small stage. Antaeus Company, the 19-year-old classical theatre ensemble founded by accomplished classical dramaturg and Shakespeare scholar, Dakin Matthews, is tackling its first full production of a Shakespeare play, and “King Lear” is a superb vehicle for showcasing the talents of the mighty company.

Matthews alternates the title role with Harry Groener, a Broadway veteran. Both men do great justice to Lear, a ruler who hands over his royal power to his two falsely doting daughters, Goneril (Kirsten Potter/Allegra Fulton, both deliciously dangerous damsels) and Regan (Francia Dimase/Jen Dede), who proclaim great love for their father only to betray him by way of ambition and greed. Cordelia (a powerfully even-handed Rebecca Mozo, who I saw in both productions, though she shares the role with Tessa Thompson) is Lear’s only honest offspring, but her inability to shower him with false proclamations of love loses her a slice of the kingdom. Of course, in the end, Lear recognizes his folly and rues the day he banished Cordelia.

In addition to the two impressive leads, both sprawling ensemble casts are packed with talented actors whose hearts are planted firmly in the plethora of vengeful, conniving and utterly virtuous characters. There’s Daniel Bess as Edmund, the villainous bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester (Robert Pine/Norman Snow), who goes to unspeakably violent lengths to usurp his father’s power and leap-frog his eldest brother for a power grab. Then there’s Morlan Higgins and Gregory Itzin, the duo who presents the biggest study in contrast amongst the two casts, as the Earl of Kent. Higgins is a quiet, loving, faithful Kent, humble servant of Lear until the end, while Itzin is a brash, angry Kent, a mercurial servant of the king who protects his master like a sharp-fanged wolf protecting her pups.

Both shows are a pleasure to watch, two fully-realized minings of the text. Director Bart DeLorenzo sinks his teeth into the production, giving it crispness and total coherence despite Lear’s decent into madness near play’s end. Lap Chi Chu’s lighting brings eerie atmosphere to the bloody tale.

“King Lear,” through August 8 at Deaf West Theatre as part of Classicsfest, the Antaeus Company’s series of readings and works in process, which wraps up August 15. Call (818) 506-1983.  The Antaeus Company and Antaeus Academy are located at the Deaf West Theatre 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601

Amy Lyons is a professional freelance journalist and theatre critic, with a degree in Theatre Arts and English from UMass, Boston. She started her journalism career at The Boston Globe and is a member of the Drama Critics Circle. Her articles, theatre reviews and photos regularly appear in numerous publications, including the Beverly Press, Valley Life Magazine, the Santa Monica Mirror and www.nohoartsdistrict.com

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.