Saul Elkin as Lear: A mad triumph for Shakespeare at Delaware Park
By Colin Dabkowski
From The Buffalo News, 6/25/08
After a week of dreary weather and more than its share of false starts, the ranting and raving of Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s “King Lear” finally came out in full force Tuesday night.
This “Lear,” starring the company’s founder and artistic director Saul Elkin in the title role and directed by Derek Campbell, is Shakespeare at its unvarnished best. With no bells, whistles, gimmicks or even questionable interpretations from its actors, the show allows Shakespeare’s themes and language to speak loudly for themselves.
For Elkin, who acts opposite his daughter Rebecca Elkin (Cordelia), this is an important performance. After two previous attempts at Lear, he’s said this will be his last crack at the role, considered one of the most challenging and thus most rewarding roles in all of theater. Elkin’s deeply impassioned performance Tuesday swung expertly from furious outrage to raving madness to tragic clarity. Elkin’s indignation was righteous, his madness subtly good-natured and his final epiphany moving.
In an attempt to immediately suspend disbelief, Shakespeare starts his masterpiece off with an absurd proposition. Lear, King of England, asks each of his daughters to profess their love to him so that he can parcel out his kingdom to them accordingly. After Goneril (Eileen Dugan) and Regan (Marie Costa) gush shamelessly, Cordelia refuses to heave her heart into her mouth. This sets off a tragic chain of events that quickly descend from order into chaos amid which the daughters that seemed to love Lear most turn into his biggest nemeses.
There’s also the Earl of Gloucester (Jim Maloy), betrayed to the delight of Cordelia’s sisters by his sniveling illegitimate son Edmund (corrosively manipulative Joseph Wiens). Edgar (newcomer Nathan Winkelstein), Gloucester’s other son, feigns a bit of madness himself, while Lear’s fool (Tim Newell) tries desperately to add a degree of levity.
The cast in this production is prodigiously gifted, and some performances that stick above the others (aside from Lear, of course) are that of Maloy as the noble Gloucester, Newell at his comic best as the Fool, Weins’ downright fiendish rendition of Edmund and, especially, Costa as Regan.
In the role of the more evil of two already evil sisters, Costa is almost magnetically vicious, more creature than woman. When, after Gloucester’s betrayal by Edmund, Cornwall (Dan Walker) plucks out Gloucester’s eyes, Costa’s Regan is — dare it be said — a little turned on. It’s an interpretation that adds a deeper hint of sinister darkness that makes the audience even more aware of just how unjust life has been for Lear and Gloucester.
Christopher Cavanagh’s lighting, in concert with sound design from Tom Makar, intentionally unspectacular sets and props from Ron Schwartz and costumes from Donna Massimo, helped to draw the healthy sized crowd on Shakespeare Hill into what was an already every inch an engrossing production.