Jay Allen Sanford 12:58 a.m., May 21
This Tuesday night, January 15, the North Coast Repertory Theatre offers a one evening only, staged reading of Shakespeare's great tragedy, King Lear. The performance - with an all-star cast and Ken Ruta (to the role born) reading the King - begins at 7:30 p.m. Few works of literature have elicited such epic responses. Here's a sampling.
"Lear is too huge for the stage" - A.C. Bradley.
"A mountain whose summit [has] never been reached" - Peter Brook.
"In Shakespeare's time the plays would have been performed straight through, without a break. In the case of King Lear, the inexorability of deprivation and suffering increases the dramatic tension where we in the audience - like Edgar, like Kent - can hardly bear what we see before our eyes" - Marjorie Garber.
"There is perhaps no play which keeps the attention so strongly fixed; which so much agitates the passions and interests of our curiosity. The artful involutions of distinct interests, the striking opposition of contrary characters, the sudden changes of fortune, and the quick succession of events, fill the mind with a perpetual tumult of indignation, pity, and hope" - Dr. Samuel Johnson.
"I was many years ago shocked by Cordelia's death, that I know not whether I ever endured to read again the last scenes of the play till I undertook to revise them as an editor" - Dr. Johnson.
"There is something in the gigantic, outspread sorrows of Lear, that seems to elude his grasp...There are pieces of ancient granite that turn the edge of any modern chisel; so perhaps the genius of no living actor can be expected to cope with Lear" - William Hazlitt.
"Lear's passion is like the passion of an old Irish weather god or the King of Summer, and like Christ's passion in a Mystery Play that moves from taunting to suffering...The end of the play just crumbles away like surf...and the problems of King Lear have no solution...Shakespeare's intimate values may be those of a Christian village, but his intellect is savage, searching, and sceptical; he is not sure in this play that nature can be restored, or that it reasserts itself" - Peter Levi.
"This new Book of Job or a new Dantean Inferno was written toward the close of the Renaissance. In Shakespeare's play there is neither Christian Heaven, nor the heaven predicted and believed by the humanists...both the medieval and the Renaissance values disintegrate" - Jan Kott.
"Tragedy never tells us what to think; it shows us what we are and may be. And what we are and may be was never, I submit, more memorably fixed upon a stage than in this kneeling old man whose heartbreak is precisely the measure of what...it is possible to lose and possible to win. The victory and the defeat are simultaneous and inseparable" - Maynard Mack.