The Antaeus Company, Los Angeles's classical theater ensemble, will open ClassicsFest 2010 with King Lear, its first full production of a Shakespeare play. Bart DeLorenzo will direct King Lear with renowned scholar, actor, and Antaeus founding artistic director Dakin Matthews and Broadway veteran/three-time Tony nominee Harry Groener heading two fully double-cast ensembles. Two gala openings, one with each cast, will take place on Saturday, June 26 at 8 pm and Sunday, June 27 at 4 pm, with performances continuing through August 8 at Antaeus' interim home, Deaf West Theatre in the NoHo Arts District. Low-priced previews will begin June 12.
King Lear is the politically resonant, timeless and searing story of an aging monarch, a kingdom divided and a family in turmoil. Lear's decision to divide his kingdom among his three daughters ignites a firestorm of greed and betrayal. Displaced as king and cast out as patriarch, Lear discovers the fragility of familial bonds as he descends into madness. Shakespeare's sublime poetry infuses this towering tragedy, a tale of family, duty, politics and mortality.
King Lear will mark the first full production of a Shakespeare play in The Antaeus Company's 19-year history.
"We chose Lear because it's a fantastic ensemble piece, and because we wanted to feature our founding artistic director, Dakin Matthews," explains artistic director Jeanie Hackett. "Dakin is one of the country's foremost interpreters of the Bard, and this is an opportunity to explore a Shakespearean play with the master. We double-cast all our productions, a technique that strengthens the way we collaborate and work together as an ensemble, so we're incredibly fortunate to have the equally superlative actor Harry Groener to share the title role."
Widely regarded as Shakespeare's greatest tragedy and arguably one of the greatest English-language plays ever written, King Lear explores domestic, spiritual and political themes in a primal world and an ambiguous time that could just as easily be hundreds of years ago or hundreds of years from now. Harold Bloom, writing in "The Invention of the Human," calls King Lear a play that shows "an apparent infinitude that perhaps transcends the limits of literature."
"Many productions are opening in the U.S. and around the world this year, and that's not a coincidence" notes DeLorenzo. "Everything is in flux: the economy, health care, the political power structure. When the world is changing, theaters do Lear."
In addition to Matthews and Groener, the ensemble will feature Allegra Fulton and Kirsten Potter as Goneril, Francia DiMase and Jen Dede as Regan, Rebecca Mozo and Tessa Thompson as Cordelia, Ramon De Ocampo and John Sloan as Edgar, Daniel Bess and Seamus Dever as Edmund, JD Cullum and Stephen Caffrey as the Fool, Robert Pine and Norman Snow as Gloucester, Morlan Higgins and Gregory Itzin as Kent, Kevin Daniels and Adrian LaTourelle as Cornwall, and John DeMita and Thomas Vincent Kelly as Albany. Rounding out the cast will be Adam Meyer, Brett Colbeth, Gabriel Diani, Jeff Doba, Drew Doyle, Jeff Gardner, Bruce Green, Jason Henning, John Francis O'Brien, Renata Plecha, Jeremy Shouldis and Paige Wilson.
A multiple award-winning director, DeLorenzo is working with Antaeus for the first time. "This is an opportunity to explore one of the world's great plays with a company of actors who can do the work justice," he says.
Adds Hackett, "Antaeus is unique because we do weeks, months, sometimes years of exploratory work on a single play before even beginning to rehearse. It's a very intensive and in-depth process, and perhaps one of the reasons that many of our productions are so successful."