Last night I went to see King Lear at Theater for a New Audience. An extra treat, as it was my first time attending their lovely new Brooklyn performance space (verdict: looks great; I love the double balcony). I went to see it because I’ve decided to completely buy in to the #yearoflear marketing ploy and go see that great tragedy as many times as possible this year. I’ve already seen Frank Langella at BAM, and bought a ticket to the screening of the Simon Russell Beale London production in a few weeks. Plus I’m hoping to see John Lithgow Shakespeare in the Park, and, erm, I think there’s another one this fall.
All this to say last night was my second out of five Lears this year. It was a thoughtful, clear production (Arin Arbus directs), and Michael Pennington was a composed Lear. (My pull quote: An intelligent Lear in an intelligent production from an intelligent theater company.) But if I’m going to be truthful I have to say that I had trouble keeping my eyes open. To begin with, it was loooong. 3 hours, 15 minutes; the first act alone was 1 hour 45 minutes. (I think this production could have done with two intermissions.) And the production never ignited the way the BAM one did a few weeks ago. I usually laugh at Edmund’s two-timing Goneril and Regan, and the Fool’s witticisms, but neither I nor many others in the audience seemed to respond much to what was onstage. Perhaps we were just a quiet bunch. But not until Gloucester’s eyes get plucked out (oh that scene is so gross) was I really sitting up and taking notice. The rest of the time, I let the verse wash over me like a lullaby.
But I still think it was mostly my own fault. I’d been out late the night before celebrating my birthday and to be honest, I was operating on just a few hours sleep. I’m no Shakespeare expert, but I have seen enough of his plays to know that if you aren’t feeling sharp that day, you’re unlikely to appreciate it much. In fact, I generally try to book tickets for matinees if I’m going to see Shakespeare. Daytime Julia is always a little more appreciative of that stuff than nighttime Julia.
Moral of the story: please learn from my mistakes (though I never seem to). Those with hangovers shouldst not attend Shakespeare plays. Julia, thou shouldst not have been old before thou hadst been wise.