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Your Eye Deceives, Your Heart Receives: New Adaptation of Lear is Spellbinding.

Smith Street Stage's adaptation of Lear keeps you on the edge of your seat.
-PJ Gach

Louis Butelli as Lear, Aileen Wu as Cordelia, Vanessa Butler as Cornwall, Ashley Scott as Regan, Hannah Sloat as Goneril. (Photo Credit: Alan Felts)

They say that every theatrical production is sprinkled with magic. That being the case, Smith Street Stage’s production of “Lear: That Old Man That I Used to Know” has more magic than Narnia’s closet, and a few doses of Harry Potter’s shine thrown in too.  Beth Ann Hopkins (ENEMY, THE TEMPEST) adapted Shakespeare’s play to suit the modern ear —yes, the original language is used, but she’s added a soupçon of Lewis Carrol, Emily Dickinson, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Dylan Thomas into the script. The result is smooth and enticing.

The play is performed at the Gugal Theater (black box) in the  A.R.T/New York Theatres complex on West 53rd Street. The intimate setting lets the audience feel as if they’re eavesdropping on something that feels so real.

Circling back to the imagery of magic: the action starts and seemingly takes place in the attic of an old home. A young girl escapes the noise and confines of downstairs for the peace and privacy of a room under the eaves. She picks up and discards a few old books. As she opens the very last book, voices are heard. Suddenly the room is peopled with characters from olden times. And the audience as one is swept away in the retelling of an old tale.

Lear is one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies, and the running themes are as apt today as of then. Losing dignity as one ages, misplaced trust,  false words disguised as words of love, and oh the term “Fake news” and its disastrous results make the play feel as if it’s a reflection of the modern political climate.

How good is the cast? During the famous scene where Lear berates the weather after being humiliated by Regan and Goneril…”Blow winds blow” while the actors stand and react to invisible rain, we, the audience were so captivated by the performances that we saw and felt that rain.

The cast of “Lear: That Old Man That I Used to Know” includes Louis Butelli (Sleep No More; Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde) as Lear, Sarah Dacey Charles (Les Miserables; "House of Cards") as Gloucester, Pete McElligott (War of the Roses) as Kent, Aileen Wu as Girl/Cordelia, Noelle Franco (Deployed) as Fool, Jonathan Hopkins (Henry IV) as Edgar, Alex Purcell (Romeo & Juliet) as Edmund, Ashley Scott as Regan, Hannah Sloat (War Horse) as Goneril, Vanessa Butler (Queens for a Year) as Cornwall, Kieron Anthony (The Last Days of Judas Iscariot) as Albany and Christa Kimlicko Jones (The Three Sisters) as Mother.

And yes, you’ve read the cast correctly. Woman play traditional men’s roles, and the cast is as diverse as a New York City street. It works beautifully. Perhaps it’s the quality of the cast, the genius of the casting, but when the actors are on the stage, you truly believe they are who they are. And that is what acting is supposed to be in its purest form.

Lear: That Old Man I Used To Know features costume design by Sherry Martinez (The Last Days of Judas Iscariot), lighting design by Charlotte McPherson (Age of Bees), scenic design by Steve Brenman (Double Falsehood), sound design by Darin Hallinan (The Frankenstein Project), props design by Tony Leone, Sherry Leone, Gary Dolan & Ashley Seltzer, and fight choreography and assistant direction by Alex Purcell (Stupid F**king Bird).

 The play runs now through September 22 at the A.R.T/New York Theatres, 502 West 53rd Street (between 10 and 11th avenues). Tickets run from $15 to $30 and can be purchased here.

This post first appeared on The Queen Of Style, please read the originial post: here

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Your Eye Deceives, Your Heart Receives: New Adaptation of Lear is Spellbinding.


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