Before there was “Game of Thrones” there was “King Lear,” Shakespeare’s gripping tragedy of a king’s descent into madness as two of his three daughters makes power plays for his kingdom based on false flattery and insincere love.
The show runs 8 p.m. Dec. 7 to 9, and 14 to 16 and 2 p.m. Dec. 10 and 17 at the Little Door Theatre, 21045 Van Dyke in Warren, and features Dearborn actor Michael Suchyta as the Duke of Burgundy, suitor to King Lear’s daughter Cordelia, who withdraws his suite when she is disinherited.
Director Shannon Hurst said she chose “King Lear” because even though it is a tragedy, it exposes audiences to a wide range of emotions.
“’King Lear’ is one of the few tragedies of Shakespeare that shows both the dark side of human experience while also engaging in humor to offer the audience a roller coaster ride of emotions throughout the show,” Hurst said. “I am hoping audiences can sympathize with the characters being manipulated throughout the course of the play. The characters that prevail are the ones watching out for others outside of themselves.”
Hurst has set the show in a dystopian future, and is using movement to further explain the machinations of the plot.
The cast includes Andrew McMechan of Birmingham as King Lear, Maggie Alger of Detroit as Goneril, Danielle Christina of Clawson as Regan, Allie Jackson of Sterling Heights as Cordelia, Craig Ester of Detroit as Albany, Marcus Laban of Warren as Cornwall and JM Ethridge of Eastpointe as the Fool.
Kez Settle of Clawson plays Kent, with KT Bennett of Royal Oak as Gloucester, Daniel Drobot of Hazel Park as Edmund, Tim Falk of Armada as Edgar, Los Westbrook of Ortonville as the King of France, Roman D’Ambrosio of South Lyon as Oswald and Michael Suchyta of Dearborn as Burgundy.
McMechan said “King Lear” is no more daunting than the average Quentin Tarentino movie.
“A group of morally challenged people plot, scheme, back stab, and fight one another in the wake of one man’s impulsive and explosive bad decision,” he said. “By shaking it out of its Elizabethan cobwebs, Hurst has created an atmosphere as potent, dystopian, and edgy as any science fiction epic film.”
He said that Lear’s descent into madness is both mentally and physically challenging for an actor.
“I can’t help thinking about my father, for whom I was caregiver during his long journey through Alzheimer’s,” McMechan said. “The consequences of Lear’s actions are certainly greater, but I understand the seesaw moods, the regression to childhood, the total sense of being lost in this world.”
McMechan said “King Lear” is also a cautionary tale.
“Oscar Wilde said, ‘Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes,’” McMechan said. “If so, ‘King Lear’ should be quite an experience.”
Drobot said that by placing “King Lear” in a dystopian future, they have been able to add movement pieces with intermittent music and lighting effects.
“Action and excitement provide a unique captivating show,” Drobot said. “People will see the relationship between the desire to gain or keep power that often drives individuals to the darkest realms of humanity. While the nobles, or politicians, are playing for power, the world crumbles beneath them.”
Christina said audiences who like “Game of Thrones” will like “King Lear.”
“‘Lear’ is so much like what is currently popular on TV – the machinations, twisted family dynamics, romance, violence and thirst for power,” she said. “Perhaps your sibling rivalry won’t end in a poisoning, and perhaps your father won’t banish you. These relationships are extreme, and yet they are real.”
Ester likens “King Lear” to a political thriller.
“It has the qualities we most associate with that genre in film,” Ester said. “There is action, romantic intrigue, and genuine comedy. At its core is a cautionary tale about what happens when a nation is divided. I think that idea alone resonates with our current political situation.”
Ester said the play also explores what happens when a new generation steps into its responsibilities as the older generation enter a new phase of life.
“For millennials, in particular, it’s a rallying cry,” Ester said. “My character, the Duke of Albany, is the story of what happens when a good man is pushed too far and has to take action, standing fervently against any evil. He’s a character who reminds us that kindness is not weakness.”
Falk said the show has a storyline to which audiences can relate.
“Whether it’s a cheating lover, people being dishonest, or acting like they care when they don’t, I think people should come see our production,” he said. “We’re presenting it in a pretty unique way, so people can walk away with something different.”
Hurst said she is pleased with the cast she has assembled.
“This is one of the strongest group of actors we have assembled at Little Door Theatre thus far, and I cannot wait to share this show with our many patrons,” Hurst said.
Tickets are $15, and are available at ldtkinglear.brownpapertickets.com, or by email at [email protected]
OUTVISIBLE THEATRE CONTINUES ITS RUN OF ‘CONSTELLATIONS’
When a quantum physicist meets a beekeeper, and multiverse – parallel universe theory – meets quantum physics, destiny meets free will, and a romantic journey begins in Nick Payne’s “Constellations,” running through Dec. 17 at the Outvisible Theatre, 18614 Ecorse Road in Allen Park.
Show times are 8 p.m. Dec. 1, 2, 4, 8, 9, 11, 15 and 16, and Dec. 17 at 3 p.m. at the theater.
Directed by Adriane Galea, the cast includes Scott Anthony Joy of Ann Arbor as Roland and Anna Doyle of Detroit as Marianne.
Galea said the show is intelligent, witty and heartbreaking.
“This show is like a roller coaster ride, but in the most gorgeous way,” she said. “‘Constellations’ has 60 scenes in just over 60 minutes, so it’s a little like theatrical whiplash at first, but the stories of these two characters are so compelling.”
The romantic journey begins with a simple encounter between a man and a woman, where boy meets girl again and again, telling and retelling moments in time, defying the boundaries of the world we think we know, and raising questions about choice and destiny.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday tickets are $25, with a $5 discount for seniors and a $10 discount for students with valid identification. Monday night tickets are available for a donation of any amount to the theater.
To order, call 313-427-2490 or email [email protected]