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  King Lear at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

King Lear

Chicago Shakespeare Theater
800 East Grand Avenue Chicago

King Lear is Shakespeare's most towering achievement, a wrenching story of endurance, love, loss and reconciliation. An aging monarch obscured by the shadows of dementia resolves to retire and divides his kingdom among his three daughters. The unexpected consequence of losing everything that defines him is shattering-a reminder that even the most powerful among us can be undone. The brilliantly versatile actor Larry Yando takes on the monumental title role, marking his twenty-third production with Chicago Shakespeare.

Thru - Nov 9, 2014

Price: $58-$78

Stage: Courtyard Theater

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 312-595-5600

Running Time: 2hrs, 45mins; one intermission

Chicago Shakespeare Theater Seating Chart

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  King Lear Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...This is a contemporary "King Lear," although really an overtly expressionistic "Lear" is perhaps a better descriptor. The fine British set and costume designer Mark Bailey, whose work must compete with Lindsay Jones' epic thunderclaps fused with Sinatra, takes us on a stylistic journey clearly designed to represent the interior of Lear's skull. This may just be me, but I swear Bailey starts out with the Aeschylean look of "The Oresteia," then transports Lear and his unmerry band of followers into the Beckettian landscape of "Waiting for Godot" (complete with sad tree) and ends us up in the barbed-wire pallet of such conflict-riven worlds as "War Horse" or, more acutely, "Journey's End." It is a formidable piece of design work."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...Watch Larry Yando (an actor of such quicksilver moods, breathtaking timing, total physical expressiveness and bristling intelligence that he should, by any reckoning, be an internationally renowned star) undergo these dramatic shifts in fate and temperament, and you see the radical transformation occur in starkest relief. This Lear has flashes of insight all along, but his impulses and perceptions are erratic and extreme. He is in the throes of death, but it will not come quickly or easily."
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Hedy Weiss

Windy City Times - Somewhat Recommended

"...Had director Barbara Gaines envisioned a quietly pensive interpretation—mirroring Sinatra's inspirational song—before the volume got turned up to eleven? Did rushed preparation dictate that subordinate personnel rehearse separately from the principals, or that special effects—falling walls, overhead sprinklers, urban-camo curtains—be recycled from past seasons? Whatever its flaws, there's no denying the heroic Yando's delivering 200 percent and more; however, he can't do it alone."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Gapers Block - Highly Recommended

"...Barbara Gaines' productions are often over-the-top in scenic design, lighting and sound but in this King Lear, minimalism prevails. Mark Bailey's simple scenic design works very well for this modern-dress Lear and Michael Geno's dramatic lighting design highlights the performances of individual actors. A lovely detail in the initial scene in Lear's palace is a painting that looks adapted from Velasquez' "Las Meninas" (The Royal Family)."
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Nancy Bishop

Time Out Chicago - Somewhat Recommended

"...Yando, at least, makes a moving fallen monarch; his Lear shows enough tentative cognitive struggles early on that we can accept his mistreatment of loving daughter Cordelia as a desperate, rash grasp for control of his own faculties. If he's arguably on the young side to take on this often career-crowning role, he fully embodies its "vengeance, plague, death, confusion," emphasis on the latter word. His anguish in the play's back half is contagious, though he leans a bit hard on a choice of physicality that goes from staggering to shuffling."
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Kris Vire

Chicago On the Aisle - Recommended

"...Were it not for Larry Yando’s crushing turn in the title role, Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s “King Lear” would amount to little more than an ill-advised concept played out by a cast that largely misses both the pulse and the pressure of Shakespeare’s language."
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Lawrence B. Johnson

Stage and Cinema - Somewhat Recommended

"...Director Barbara Gaines rightly believes that King Lear is for now, which isn't always true with Shakespeare. Especially engaging, she argues, is its depiction of a parent's decline from the Alzheimer's affliction or other dotage, challenging a child to do the right thing. But, of course, King Lear is much more than a health-care PSA-it's a scream in the face of gratuitous malice, a cry for help when filial devotion becomes a license to kill. You can't do this play without acknowledging the existence of evil; Lear is about more than just dysfunction and failure to communicate."
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Lawrence Bommer

Splash Magazine - Recommended

"...Director Barbara Gains takes many chances with this production. Some, like her use of Frank Sinatra tunes pay off. She also summons one of the most impressive onstage storms I have ever seen (with booming thunder an exclamation to a bitter king's ranting). Other risks, such as her constant use of music to accent the tension, felt less sure footed. In general the first act felt long, but the second, a gory and emotional spectacle, left me at the edge of my seat. Larry Yando as King Lear is simply amazing; a powerhouse actor, he perfectly follows his character's descent into madness. And toward the end of the play he is absolutely terrifying in his stark portrayal of loss. Also standing out among this very impressive cast is the very physical Jesse Luken (Edmund) and the more every man Steve Haggard (Edward). Both actors completely possess their characters and make for a fascinating contrast in personalities."
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Noel Schecter

ChicagoCritic - Somewhat Recommended

"...With the exception of the extraordinary staging of one of the most memorable ever speeches, Lear's 'Blow wind and crack your cheeks..' being shouted by him with his back to the audience, the production's modern dress style was filled with engaging movement and visually skillful staging. The attention never wavered, even though it was like watching a foreign language play at times.This reviewer was seated at the extreme right of the thrust stage. Perhaps because of this, most of the language was unintelligible, with actors facing away. Added to this this was the indistinct delivery of the text, with actors allowed, or directed, to speak with great speed, as they would a Mamet text, often with poor enunciation and vocal projection."
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Saul Reichlin

Chicago Stage Standard - Highly Recommended

"...Chicago Shakespeare Theatre offers us a riveting and deeply moving King Lear that is instantly recognizable as pertaining to life as we live it right now. It has been a season of loss for many in our town, and there is no more right place to be than at a rendition of King Lear where you can contemplate and feel the tragedy of human existence. This is worthy of your time and attention."

Angela Allyn

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...The waiting is over! The much anticipated production of Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s “King Lear” directed to perfection by Barbara Gaines has taken to the stage at Navy Pier. This is a marvelous production, bringing the works of The Bard to a more modern version. While the true Shakespeare “fanatics” prefer hearing the “poetry” of his words, the CST version makes the language far more understandable to today’s audiences. I know that those from England prefer the old way, but to be honest, I enjoy understanding what it was he was telling us and under the skilled hand of Ms Gaines, that is exactly what we have at Chicago."
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Alan Bresloff

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...With its unflinching look at aging, family relationships and the contrasting power to destroy or forgive, Shakespeare’s early 17th century drama still has much to say to contemporary audiences. Barbara Gaines‘ superb interpretation of this world-famous drama, set in the modern-day world, peppered with the music and lyrics of Frank Sinatra and brought to life by a cast of mostly exceptional actors and theatre magicians, is a production worth enjoying. It’s a fitting opening to one more season of risk-taking, innovative, professional theatre on Navy Pier."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Recommended

"...I never felt emotionally engaged in the CST staging until the final scene. There are good performances and some potent sound and lighting effects, but the production never drew me into a larger-than-life world of humanity at war with inhumanity. At its best, "King Lear" is a grueling play to sit through, not only because of its length but also because of the brutality visited upon the title character and the savagery of its vision of a society dominated by cruelty and treachery in the service of callous ambition and greed. It should be a fascinating if bleak viewing experience. Yando's totally committed performance is a marvel, but overall the show is a long sit with only intermittent dramatic rewards, though it's always good to hear Frank Sinatra, even in such an unlikely setting."

Dan Zeff

The Fourth Walsh - Recommended

"...Larry Yando is KING LEAR! KING LEAR is Larry Yando. Despite some stilted performances by the ensemble, I would recommend seeing this Yando showcase. This is, HE is KING LEAR like we’ve never seen before or may see again."
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Katy Walsh

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   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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