The Frailty of the King

An aging king decides to retire and divide his land between his three daughters, but first requires his daughters to make a declaration of love to him in order to determine which one loves him best.  This requirement triggers a series of events that cause the land to descend into chaos, war, betrayal, madness, and death.  This is King Lear and it is currently playing at the BlueBarn.

It’s been said that the tragedies of William Shakespeare laid the blueprint for the modern-day soap opera and that’s very believable as all of the Bard’s tragedies tend to follow certain patterns and contain similar themes prevalent in that genre of entertainment.  You have protagonists with fatal flaws, warring families, backstabbing (sometimes in a very literal sense), betrayal, intrigue, alliance, and complex schemes, just to name a few.  Great elements for an engaging spectacle, but BlueBarn’s King Lear has an x factor that raises it to another level.

It’s a masterpiece.

Believe me, I don’t bandy that word about very readily.  But this show is virtually perfect.  Direction that is spot on.  Acting that held nary a flaw.  Beautiful costumes.  Atmospheric lighting.  A transcendent set.  And a story that will have you heart aching at the folly and depravity of man.

I’d known of Jill Anderson’s sterling reputation as an actress, but she proved that she is equally golden as a director.  Anderson truly understands the complexities of Shakespeare’s writing and language and easily guides the audience through its labyrinthian path.  She knew when to punch up a moment with just the right amount of big emotion and when the subtlest of subtlety was needed.  The pacing was sure.  The staging was immaculate.  Anderson’s grip on the language was so ironclad that she had an entire cast tossing it off as if it were their natural tongue.  Her coaching of the actors was championship quality as they worked like a well-oiled machine with hardly a blip in their work.

 I could easily wax poetic on the work of the entire cast, but for brevity’s sake, let me simply say that some of the truly excellent performances you’ll see come from Josh Peyton who shines in my favorite role of The Fool, who just may be the wisest person in the show.  Matthew Kisher is stellar as Edgar, a good and innocent man who is compelled to accept the heavy mantle of avenger and hero when he finds himself and his father the target of a conspiracy.  Ashley Kobza and Melissa King kill it as Goneril and Regan.  Kobza is particularly impressive as the brutish, more military minded Goneril while King’s Regan is a bit more Machiavellian, yet is capable of a frightening level of viciousness as when she claws out the eye of an ally of her father, Lear.  Delaney Jackson is haunting as the gentle Cordelia who is disinherited by Lear simply because she is sincere about her love for him.

I’ve seen Thomas Becker essay many a fine role over the years, but his King Lear might just be his crowning achievement (pardon the pun).  This is a very difficult role to perform as the actor needs to play a man who is both strong and weak.  Lear is very much the warrior king, yet is cursed with the fatal flaws of arrogance, stupidity, and ability to be easily manipulated due to his ego.  Becker is incredible as a ruler whose age and ego make him quite irascible, but whose behavior may also indicate the onset of dementia and certainly madness as his eldest daughters break his spirit after they get his land which is all they wanted from him.

Becker makes massive emotional changes on the turn of a dime as he can go from being explosively angry to childishly humorous in the blink of an eye.  Some of Becker’s best scenes are his moments of clarity when he realizes what he has done to himself and to the daughter that truly loved him and you see a glimpse of the good man who got lost somewhere along the way.

Shane Staiger is evil personified as Edmund.  While one can have sympathy at his inability to inherit his father’s lands due to his illegitimate status, his plan to bypass that is reprehensible.  This is truly one of the most selfish people I’ve seen portrayed on stage and Staiger is phenomenal.  In the presence of others, he assumes a gentlemanly and honorable persona, but removes that mask in his monologues where his derisive sneers and demonic smirks fully make you buy into his evil.  This man truly looks out for number one and he will lie to, kill, and seduce whomever he has to in order to obtain the power he desperately craves.

Ryan Kathman is a truly noble man as Kent.  This is a man who truly loves his king and because of that love can’t be anything less than honest with him.  Kathman’s Kent boldly and bluntly tells the king when he does wrong even when that directness results in his exile.  Yet so great is his love that he continues to serve his king in disguise in order to protect him from himself.  Not only does Kathman project that needed sense of decency and loyalty, he also shows some dandy comedic chops with his hilarious abuse of the servant, Oswald.

Steven Williams’ set transports you back to a long-ago time with its wooden outline shaping into elegant castle doors and staircases as frilled sheets decorate the ceiling and descend into tapestries.  His lighting is so atmospheric especially during the monologue scenes when the lights go low except for a lone light on the speaker with the color matching the speaker’s personality such as the sadistic red of Edmund’s speeches.  His lighting for the storm sequence combined with Bill Kirby’s booming thunder made for one of the best technical scenes I’ve ever seen on stage.  And speaking of sounds, Kirby’s are top notch from the relentless drumbeats that drive the story to its finale to the definitive thump of a drawbridge closing, effectively imprisoning Gloucester in his own home.  Jill Anderson did double duty as she was also costume designer and they are dynamite with their medieval look from the knights to the Fool’s jester outfit to the elegant dresses of the ladies and the robes of the men.

This is an extremely worthy night of entertainment and don’t be concerned that you might not understand the classical language.  The program contains a synopsis of the story so you’ll understand what’s going on and then can merely immerse yourself in the language, acting, and tragic story of a land’s downfall due to a foolish king.

King Lear runs at BlueBarn through April 16.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm with a performance on April 3 at 2pm and April 10 at 6pm. Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased by calling 402-345-1576 or visiting www.bluebarn.org. BlueBarn Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

Shakespearean Tragedy Heading for BlueBarn

BLUEBARN THEATRE Proudly Presents:

King Lear
by William Shakespeare
March 24th-April 16th, 2022

Performances

Thursdays -Saturday@ 7:30pm; Sun April 3rd@ 2:00pm; Sun April 10th@ 2pm
Virtual Presentation available beginning April 15th@ 7:30
ASL Interpreted Performance-Friday, April 8th@ 7:30

About King Lear

BLUEBARN takes on Shakespeare’s most intimate embrace of heights and depths of human experience with King Lear. When an aging monarch decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters, chaos reigns, madness is ascendant and love’s labours come to nothing.

“When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools”

About the Production

BLUEBARN’s production of King Lear features performances by Thomas Becker, Thomas Gjere, Delaney Jackson, Ryan Kathman, Melissa King, Matthew Kischer, Ashley Kobza, Mike Leaman, Josh Peyton, Paul Shaw, Brent Spencer, Shane Staiger, Michael Trunta, and Fred Vogel.

Directed by Jill Anderson.
Dramaturgy by D. Scott Glasser.
Set and lighting design by Steven Williams.
Costume design by Jill Anderson and Katherine Neary.
Fight Choreography by Terry Doughman.
Special Effects/Fight Assist by Wes Clowers.
Music by Vince Krysl.
Sound design by Bill Kirby.
Properties by Amy Reiner.
Scenic Arts by Craig Lee.

Seating & Tickets

Attendance is free to TruBLU members and $35 for General Admission tickets. Educator/Healthcare Workers/Military Personnel tickets are available for $30. To reserve and/or purchase your tickets, visit our website, www.bluebarn.org/tickets, or call the box office at (402) 345-1576, M-F between 10am-4pm. Covid vaccination required to attend any show at the BLUEBARN Theatre. You will be asked to show your vaccination card at the box office when you check-in. Masks will be required for King Lear.

King Lear is generously sponsored by:

Immanuel Communities
James and Susan Tracy Charitable Foundation
Dr. Bill Hutson
Nebraska Arts Council
Nebraska Cultural Endowment

BLUEBARN Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

EMBRACE Blue Barn’s 33rd Season

BLUEBARN Theatre is proud to announce Season 33: EMBRACE.

After so much separation and isolation, we are thrilled to welcome you back to a full season of transformative live theatre. Season 33 embraces the very best of original, contemporary, and classic work, exactly what you’ve come to expect from Omaha’s Premier Professional Theatre. Our new season also fully embraces our commitment to creating a thriving, equitable arts scene in Omaha. Join us in embracing compassion and justice, join us in embracing extraordinary art and the artists who create it, join us in embracing a stronger sense of community.

Returning TRUBLU members can renew their membership today. Check your email for details, or call the box office at (402) 345-1576.

Public sales begin August 16 – visit bluebarn.org/plays-events for details!

Season 33 – Mainstage

Embrace Empathy

Heroes of the Fourth Turning by Will Arbery
September 30th – October 24th

Embrace Explosive Laughter

A Very Die Hard Christmas by Jeff Schell and the Habit
November 26th – December 19th

Embrace Madness and Love

King Lear by William Shakespeare
March 24th – April 17th

Embrace the Wild West

Buffalo Women: A Black Cowgirl Musical Dramedy by Beaufield Berry Music and Additional Lyrics by J. Isaiah Smith
May 26th – June 19th

Season 33 – Happenings

Embrace Emerging Artists

The BIG DAMN DOOR Festival: BONFIRE Residencies

Embrace the Future

R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE A play by D.W. Jacobs
Based on the life and writings of R. Buckminster Fuller
Six Drop-in Experiences throughout the Season

Embrace the Power of Storytelling

Musing: A Storytelling Series
Gatherings Quarterly, beginning Oct 13th

The Madness Begins

BLUE BARN THEATRES WALK THE NIGHT RETURNS

The BLUEBARN Theatre is proud to present Walk the Night…Where Madness Lies. The next installment of its immersive event series is located within a converted century-old convent at 1310 N.29th Street (called “The Starlight Chateau”).  Walk the Night creator, Spencer Williams, co-directs with founding company choreographer, Wai Yim;with set design by Homero Vela and Hilary Williams, lighting design by Homero Vela, costume design by Lora Kaup, sound design by Bill Grennan, and properties design by Spencer Williams.

Shows run Oct. 28 – Nov. 21; Wednesday-Saturday, twice nightly at 7:00 p.m. and again at 8:30 p.m.  Preshow begins at 6:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. Single tickets for Walk the Night: Where Madness Lies are $20 for a single performance; $35 for both performances each night. Discounts can be discovered in the pre-show and throughout the city at one of two participating locations: House of Loom (1012 South 10th St.); and Spielbound (3229 Harney St.).

About WALK THE NIGHT: WHERE MADNESS LIES

 Walk the Night: Where Madness Lies is an alternate, edited interpretation of Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear. In the story, Lear (played by Moira Mangiameli) begins to enter retirement, by dividing her assets between her three daughters, proceeding to announce so publicly. Cordelia, her only trustworthy daughter, denies an oath of complete and utter submission to Lear. The matriarch casts Cordelia out, ostracizing herself from her true friends and laying trust in plotting elder daughters, Goneril and Regan. Lear’s world unravels as the two daughters betray their oaths, and the world descends into destruction with only a handful of survivors. This rendition is a story of people haunted by elements known and unknown, blurring the lines between flaws and demonic possessions, reality and fantasy; it is the story of a descent into madness.

About the Format for WALK THE NIGHT: WHERE MADNESS LIES

The venue is the virtual entirety of a convent, built in 1903. The events occur in real time, throughout the rooms. There are no theatre seats. Audiences are free to explore and follow any of the fifteen stories as they happen. Masks are required and provided at the door. Comfortable footwear is recommended.

About the Stars of WALK THE NIGHT: WHERE MADNESS LIES

Walk the Night: Where Madness Lies features a diverse cast, playing against cultural expectations.  Leading the company as Lear (traditionally played by a man) is award-winning actress Moira Mangiameli. Others members are Josh Doucette, Teri Fender, John Hatcher, Regina Palmer, Cassi Moucka, Aaron Ellis, Andre McGraw, Regina Palmer (all returning company members), as well as Ben Beck, Jenna Briggs, Raydell Cordell III, Britta Tollefsrud, Ryann Woods, Cara Walters, and Nick Zadina.

About The BLUEBARN Theatre

The BLUEBARN Theatre has been bringing professionally-produced plays to area audiences since 1989. Since its inception, BLUEBARN has produced over 100 plays and has established itself as Omaha’s professional contemporary theatre company. Striving to bring artistically significant scripts and professional production values to Omaha and the surrounding region, BLUEBARN is known for high-quality entertainment and the fearless pursuit of stories that challenge both theatre artists and patrons.