New Swan Shakespeare Festival: King Lear

Gateway Commons next to Aldrich Park, UC Irvine

Plenty of troupes mount Shakespeare, but no one does it like the New Swan Shakespeare Festival. The company, an independent entity with a strong relationship with UC Irvine, produces its shows on the campus, but in a mini-Elizabethan theater (a smaller version of the kind that people would have watched Shakespeare’s plays some 400 years ago), designed by UCI theater professor Luke Cantarella. It’s a portable theater comprised of 15 one-ton sections that come apart. The space, which seats 125, is only 20 feet across the circular stage area, and includes a mezzanine, balcony and floor-seating for the lowly groundlings. The festival wraps up things with two productions this weekend, including what may be the finest tragedy ever penned, King Lear, whose fall from grace through his own pig-headed obstinance becomes nothing short of a meditation on the meaning (or lack) of human existence. Lear is always a visceral experience, but in this intimate space, don’t be surprised that when our goodly king bellows and rages amid a storm in the climactic scene of his play, the rain you feel is actually his spittle.
Fri., Aug. 30, 8 p.m., 2013

 
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