“We do things differently in the suburbs.” So said Scott Palmer, artistic director of Hillsboro’s Bag & Baggage Productions, in a pre-show introduction to Lear
, a stripped-down, corseted-up retelling of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Palmer also had this word of warning: “This ain’t your grandmother’s King Lear
.” He wasn’t kidding. In Palmer’s adaptation, five actors handle the whole story, which focuses on Lear’s complicated love for his three daughters. This production drops the political for the personal, and the results are often stunning. The costumes are steampunk Elizabethan, and the gorgeous (and sometimes needlessly distracting) lighting design is a scrim-lover’s wet dream. Reimagining Shakespeare is, of course, nothing new. Starry-eyed directors sometimes adapt Shakespeare just for adaptation’s sake, which is, more often than not, a disservice to the text. But, given that King Lear
is a sprawling and complicated mess-terpiece, trimming it down to its essentials makes good sense. In this case, it also makes great theater. As Lear, the king who divides his land and lucre between the conniving Regan and Goneril while disowning the kindhearted Cordelia, Kevin Connell is a powerful presence. He convincingly inhabits Lear’s descent into madness, as well as his very real regrets. Still, his intensity could be tempered slightly. When you set the volume to 11 from the outset, there’s little room for further emoting, and the more subtle moments get drowned out in the sound and fury. In Act 5, as the bodies start to pile up in the true fashion of a Shakespearean tragedy, Lear is alive but barely. “All’s cheerless, dark and deadly,” he says. True. But not in the suburbs.
253 E Main St., HillsboroWebsite: http://bagnbaggage.org/