Sparks in the park
Sparks in the park
King Lear kicks off summer theater season
Story and photos by Sherry Mazzocchi
King Lear unfolds beneath a leafy green canopy in Inwood Hill Park.
This past Wed., Jun. 5th, Moose Hall Theatre Company kicked off its season of outdoor productions.
Behind the action, the night sky deepens under the arch of the Henry Hudson Bridge.
To the right, Metro-North trains rumble away from the Spuyten Duyvil station.
Above, planes fly low on approach or departure.
Audiences may smile at the distractions, but the actors are remarkably unfazed.
The pace is brisk.
Ted Minos, Moose Hall’s artistic director, cut an hour from the play, which has no intermission.
He shortened it for two reasons. The Parks Department does not allow performances after 10 pm.
He also has to capture and keep an outdoor audience’s attention. “If you give them a break,” he said once, “you’ll lose them.”
The audience is rapt from the start.
They watch as King Lear, played by Bob C. Armstrong, divvies up his kingdom between his two daughters and disowns his youngest, and favorite, Cordelia.
A later scene where Lear ping pongs between his two disloyal daughters tears at the audience’s heart. Lear and the Fool (Samantha Bruce) have an excellent chemistry.
Minos cast his own daughter to play the part after the original actor landed another (paying) job. She puts her dance training to good use here, singing the lines and dancing the role.
Goneril (Kelly Jean Clair) and Regan (Marca Leigh) transform wonderfully from devoted daughters into deliciously evil sisters. They are resplendent in their iridescent blue and red dresses, costumes suiting their shifting natures as their colors change with the light.
Cordelia (Jody Pfau) evolves from a simple yet honest girl into gallant warrior dressed in battle gear, and, at the end, a shimmering light put out too soon.
The villainous Edmond, played with athletic intensity by Warren Jackson, commands the space. He bonds with the audience, making them laugh at lecherous gestures, seducing them with his perverse logic.
The audience sat up straighter as he and Edgar (Robert J. Dyckman) draw swords. The stage combat, choreographed by Ray Rodriguez (who also plays Kent) is a deadly, nearly evenly matched dance. Edmund is chillingly fierce, but Edgar, his half-brother, knows and anticipates his every move.
Actors in smaller roles also wooed the audience. The King of France (played by Inwood resident Jonathan Spencer) steals the scene as he takes the hand of the disowned Cordelia. Ben Cole plays the knight who valiantly tries to stave off the dastardly Cornwall (Mitch Tebo) from blinding Gloucester (Jay Longan). Sean MacMurray’s Albany is a patch of sanity in the sinking quicksand of sisterly politics. Michael Hagin’s comedic timing and pratfalls won applause as he rolls across the stage as Oswald.
About 50 people attended Wednesday’s opening night.
By Saturday, the audience had more than doubled.
Diane Elson came that evening with several friends. She lives outside of London and while she visits New York often this was her first trip to Upper Manhattan. “It’s beautiful,” she said, laughing at the planes, trains and soccer games all around her. “This is all part of the fun,” she said, noting that the atmosphere is probably similar to the rowdy crowds of Shakespeare’s time.
Just a few feet away sat a young Inwood couple, Melissa and Pablo, with their son Lorenzo. They’ve enjoyed Shakespeare in Central Park and were happy to find it in their own back yard.
“It was a little long, but it’s Shakespeare,” said Pablo, after the play.
For more on Moose Hall Theater Company’s productions, please visit www.moosehallisf.org.