Songs of Lear | Chicago Shakespeare Theater | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

Songs of Lear Recommended New Review (Theater and Comedy) The Short List (Theater) Image Closing (Theater and Galleries)

When: Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Sept. 18 2016

Presented as part of Shakespeare 400 Chicago—a yearlong commemoration of the Bard—this 80-minute piece from Poland's Song of the Goat Theatre is passing strange: part lecture, part oratorio, part surreal close-order drill. Under the onstage eye of director Grzegorz Bral, a dozen ensemble members perform a dozen vocal compositions by Jean-Claude Acquaviva and Maciej Rychty, riffing on themes from King Lear. One song expresses the "paradisum" that was Britain before Lear decided to carve it up among his daughters; another relates the confrontation between the king and Cordelia, in tones reminiscent of a Bulgarian women's choir; a third uses something very like Tuvan throat singing to help us imagine Lear's hallucinations as he goes mad in the forest; and so on. Bral intervenes between each piece to offer "guidance" that comes across as pedantic and unnecessary when all we need to know could be compressed into a few words projected on a wall. But the singing is consistently exquisite, and the cast's mostly small, tightly choreographed gestures create a physical vocabulary reminiscent of scenes in medieval religious paintings. As we learned from the Belarus Free Theater's brilliant King Lear last winter, eastern European artists have a fierce tribal tradition to draw on when they need it; it shows up powerfully here, especially in the song depicting war and in the dirge that ends the evening. —Tony Adler

Price: $48


Add a review


Select a star to rate.