Multiple Kings Lear

We've seen multiple portrayals of Hamlet and even more of Macbeth (here and here, with more on the way), but now we seem to be in a phase when William Shakespeare's regal madman King Lear seems to be all the rage. From local productions to major ones, the tragedy seems to be the play of choice for current classical theater.  Sure, the obligatory versions of A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar can still be found in abundance, but the number of quality shows about the crazed king and his daughters this season is interesting.

Earlier this month, BAM concluded a much hyped rendition at the Harvey Theater starring Frank Langella in a highly-acclaimed performance. The actor boasted in a New York Times article that he never played the part the same way twice.

Right now as I write this, the Royal National Theatre in London is producing a sold out staging with Simon Russell Beale in the lead. (They will even broadcast live to cinemas around the world on May 1, 2014.)

Starting on March 14 and running through May 4, the Theater for a New Audience at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center will bring Michael Pennington to the role.

Maybe this flood of Lears is a sign of our time as we all try to understand the nature of human suffering, as we witness a world around us that continues to spin into lunacy. Maybe the reason is much simpler than that -- maybe King Lear is just a powerful, profound work of art that continues to connect with audiences time after time in new yet familiar ways. Actually, there's no "maybe" about it.  You can bank on it, King Lear will continue to thrill and inspire.

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