Valencia State College
By William Shakespeare
Directed by John DiDonna
Starring John DiDonna, John Moughan, and Dana Gough
This shall be forever known as “The Eyeball Production.” Old King Lear (DiDonna) wants to retire and his pension planning has him distributing his estate between his three daughters, and he’ll mooch off them for a month at a time with one hundred of his faithful men. All the daughters need do is offer a flowery paean to him, and the land is theirs. Never mind the parking problem; 100 knights are expensive to feed. Regan (Xandra Burnett) and Goneril (Alyssa Dowling) lather him up, only to have the youngest daughter Cordelia (Dana Gough) basically says “I’ll do what I can.” Well, soon she’s exiled and the other two are looking for ways to clip Lear’s wings. They pass him around like a deflating football, and soon the old king’s retinue is down to a Jester (Andrew Caspian) and another AAPR refugee, Gloucester (Moughan), his old chief of staff. Once Lear is out on the moor, his sons-in-law go wild, and soon everyone you sort of care about is dead. And before Gloucester dies, they cut out his eye…and we get one of the cheapest and most effect stage effects I’ve ever cringed at.
It’s a long show; expect two and half hours in the theater. A set reminiscent of “The Cabinet of Dr Caligari” keeps the cast running up and down ramps, leaping from level to level and hiding behind a spear crossed backdrop. DiDonna works his butt off, he’s almost never off stage. Meanwhile Mr. Moughan clumps and clomps around; he’s the loyal retainer who would and does give everything. I was very impressed Andrew Caspian’s Fool. He shows a great sense of comic timing, physical skill and the cheek to tell it like it is to those who have the knives and reason to slice him down to very small bon mots. Underling all this stage fireworks is a timeless tragedy about an incumbent ruler who makes a series of bad decisions. He destroys himself, his legacy, and those he loves, even if they don’t love him in the first place. And as to Cordelia; she’s good to dad even when he rejects her, and while she could have told dear old dad what he wanted to hear, I doubt she would have ended up all that much differently.