TIO NYC: “King Lear” & “INK”

TIO NYC: “King Lear” & “INK”

Shakespeare’s “King Lear” starring Glenda Jackson at the Cort Theatre, 138 West 48 Street, and “INK” at the Manhattan Theatre Club, 261 West 47, are both up through July 7, 2019.

Glenda Jackson as Lear and Ruth Wilson as Cordelia and The Fool in the New York production.

 “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” Act V, Scene V, “Macbeth.”

One play, also by The Bard, underlines the nihilism of that immortal quote; the other exploits the sorry insight to create headlines and win at any cost.

In director Sam Gold’s over-amped, kitchen-sink, gender-neutral production of “King Lear,” the searing pathos of the “signifying nothing” bit is thrown into high relief when rock star Glenda Jackson as the diminished king cradles, Pieta-style, his dead daughter Cordelia.

In director Rupert Gold’s hard-hitting “INK” in which a Media Mogul Is Born, the emphasis in on the “tale told by an idiot” and the “sound and fury” slice of “Macbeth.”

“INK” casts back to to 1969 when Australian businessman Rupert Murdock bought his way into the British newspaper world with his acquisition of The Sun, a failing broadsheet. Murdoch and his handpicked editor, Larry Lamb, (Bertie Carvel and Richard Coyle respectively), battle to win the hearts and minds of Everyman by simply and directly pandering to our baser instincts. The populist message is chilling in its relevance today to the rise of self-serving politicians.

One clear message of “INK”: Nothing succeeds like excess.

Except, in the end, it doesn’t, at least not in Gold’s “Lear,” where the ungapatchka production threatens to drown out Jackson’s 50 shades of mastery of the saddest character in Shakespeare’s pantheon: in our view the adaptation required a major haircut.

In the end instead of simply having to do battle with her character’s inner demons, no small task, Jackson had to take on Gold’s over-egged pudding of a production, including Philip Glass’s music, (very good, but a whole other experience), blindingly gilded sets, tchotchkes, signing and more. So did the rest of Jackson’s excellent supporting cast.

Ben Brantley’s insightful review about Gold’s Lear in the The New York Times tells it like it is:

Could we please have a little quiet? There’s a great actress onstage at the Cort Theater, and I’d like to hear what she’s saying.

That was the way I felt during much of Sam Gold’s production of “King Lear,” which opened on Thursday night with the extraordinary Glenda Jackson in the title role. It should surprise no one that Ms. Jackson is delivering a powerful and deeply perceptive performance as the most royally demented of Shakespeare’s monarchs.

But much of what surrounds her in this glittery, haphazard production seems to be working overtime to divert attention from that performance. That includes a perfectly lovely string quartet — playing original music by Philip Glass, no less — that under other circumstances I would have enjoyed listening to.

Here, though, this intermittent concert seems to be competing with, rather than underscoring, Shakespeare’s bleakest tragedy. The same might be said of Miriam Buether’s blindingly gold set (lighted to sear the eyes by Jane Cox), which blazes with nouveau riche vulgarity…

Continue reading here.

In the end, however, “King Lear” is worth all my trials lord because the multi award-winning diminutive Glenda Jackson is a giant on stage, political and theatrical, someone incapable of doing anything by halves.

And “INK” is a must-see to better understand this age of populist ascendence. Here’s a good summary from the New York Post.


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