King Lear with John Lithgow in Central Park Reviews

King Lear Delacorte Theater

In the first King Lear seen at Shakespeare in the Park since 1973, John Lithgow plays the king, his two  ungrateful daughters are Annette Bening  making her Central Park debut and Jessica Hecht. Jessica Collins (of Zero Dark Thirty) portrays Cordelia.

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: New York City theatergoers will be experiencing Lear fatigue after seeing this uninspired production starring a bellowing Lithgow.

Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News: proficient but seldom stirring production’

Ben Brantley, NY Times: Though Mr. Lithgow is indeed acting up (what else?) a storm that compels admiration, the production, as a whole, can feel emotionally numb. Many of the line readings among the supporting cast members are coherent but cold, capturing the words’ sense without sensibility.

Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: Mr. Lithgow’s performance excepted, Daniel Sullivan, the director, has given us a middle-of-the-road “Lear,” traditionally costumed and enacted on a simple but monumental set by a cast whose members give performances that are often quite striking but seem (as was also the case in the Public’s Sam Waterston-led 2011 “Lear”) to be coming from completely different productions….the second half in particular is so charged with passion that it will likely sweep you away, reservations notwithstanding

Elysa Gardner, USA Today: In practice, sadly, this Lear, which opened Tuesday, generates about as much excitement as waiting for a pot to boil. Sullivan and his accomplished cast give us some heat, and plenty of noise, but in the end they get surprisingly little steam out of this epic tragedy.

Robert Kahn, WNBC: The wholly committed John Lithgow and a talented, risk-taking ensemble propel themselves through three hours of family strife and bloody betrayal in the disquieting “King Lear” that has just opened at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater.

Matthew Murray, Talkin’ Broadway: director Daniel Sullivan’s mystical but sensible spin on this heaven-sweeping tragedy

Melissa Rose Bernardo ,Entertainment Weekly: B-  Ultimately, King Lear rises or falls on the strengths of its supporting cast — and the new free Shakespeare in the Park production in New York City’s open-air Delacorte Theater, headlined by John Lithgow, eventually falls….Annette Bening — in her first New York stage appearance since 1987 — looks a bit bored, and always seems to be using her hand to make a point. (Either that or she’s swatting at mosquitos in the open-air theater.) As middle daughter Regan, Jessica Hecht relies on her usual quivery vocal tics — very fitting when she’s in quirky comedies by Sarah Ruhl or Richard Greenberg, but less convincing when she’s nose-to-nose with a guy whose eyes are about to be plucked out

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: At over three hours, this Lear would be a slog but for the one inspired bit of casting, Delacorte and Public Theater regular Jay O. Sanders as Kent, the faithful nobleman the king wrongly casts out, only to return in disguise and become his protector. Sanders is so fully, so humanly in the role, one wishes he could save the production as well.

Jesse Green, New York Magazine: commendable but vague, powerful but stolid: a statue not fully liberated from the stone. Perhaps time will improve it.

Jessica Hecht and Annette Bening in King Lear in Central Park.
Jessica Hecht and Annette Bening in King Lear in Central Park.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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