photo credit: Paul Kennedy
Written by Patrick Chavis
King Lear, the Shakespearean Tragedy, is now playing at the UCI Claire Trevor School of Arts from Feb 3 – 10, 2024.
King Lear is a tragic story about a father and king, the titular character, played by Cynthia Bassham. Lear cares more about appearances and fake niceties than actual love and sincerity. He chose to disown his honest and trustworthy daughter, Cordelia, played by Jeyna Lynn Gonzales. Instead, he put his life in the hands of his social climbing daughters Goneril, played by Sabrina Solorazano, and Regan, played by Jiayi Zhao. And as Shakespearean tragedies go, there will be blood.
King Lear is one of the more complex Tragedies in the Shakespearean catalog. A lot goes on in this play, so much that it can be hard to keep track. Don’t worry if you cannot keep track of every little thing going on in the text, you are not alone. I heard confused conversations about this show in the audience.
It’s like a soap opera in some ways. Almost everyone has a power motive, and we watch the drama as everyone tries to deceive the other. Unlike a soap opera that keeps going until the network shuts it down, there’s typically more depth in a Shakespearean tragedy.
The acting varied. Plenty of the actors in this production were fantastic with their line delivery. I got a good sense of their character through their performance. Speaking and delivering Shakespearean language is challenging, and instead of sounding like a conversation between two people, it can sometimes sound more like a back-and-forth poetry battle. Within this production, you have a mixture of both.
King Lear is one of the darker plays. While this production featured much of the blood and gore the play is known for, a lot of the violence and terrible situations lacked impact. Some of the more gory moments are more comical than anything, and they’re not meant to be.
In the second act, the fight sequence from Fight Director Chloe King delivered. Sword fights and active back-and-forth brawls on the stage made for an exhilarating second half of the play.
The bright red lighting effect from Lighting Designer Kassia Curl, in combination with the sound design from Melanie Falcon, was a nice touch and emphasized when death occurred on stage. Also, the red lighting used to create the asides around Edmund (who is played convincingly by Sittichai Chaiyahat), which also helps tell the story. Chaiyahat’s asides were effectively presented.
The composition from Jeremiah Turner seemed less like a Shakespearean play and more like I was listening to the soundtrack from Inception. The droning sounds reminded me of something Hans Zimmer might do.
One of my favorite parts of this production was the various costumes used throughout the show. The characters had variety, which helped keep track of the characters, from the black dress Regan wore to the more regal clothing worn by Cynthia Bassham’s King Lear.
There was a lot of dialogue in this show. Many of the actors projected well, but not the whole cast, which made it hard to understand everything that was going on in detail at all times. This can make it even more difficult for someone who doesn’t know the story.
As I mentioned, Sittichai Chaiyahat is excellent as Edmund.
Tim Frangos, who plays the Earl of Kent, has a natural stage presence. He plays his character very well.
Sabrina Solorzano’s Goneril is cunning and comical in her delivery in a good way throughout the performance.
UCI gives a reasonable effort on a challenging play.