A Whole Heap of Baddies

Shakespeare’s “King Lear” has got the three m’s in spades–murder, mayhem and madness–but I’d forgotten how many truly despicable characters populate this searing tragedy. Perhaps it’s because the ending is so moving that it pushes aside all the preceding awful behavior in the old memory banks. Sure, I remembered the despicable Goneril and Regan who finally get their richly deserve their fates, but the whole Edmund/Edgar story had faded. Well, it  and much more snapped into focus in Irwin Appel’s scintillating Naked Shakes production for the UCSB Theater & Dance Department. With minimal props and no scenery, you’re left to revel in the direction, acting and the play. And what a play. Willie wrote many great tragedies, but this one pulls your emotions back and forth between good and evil like no other, and the end is devastating, but still provides a strange catharsis. Probably because all those baddies are dead as well as Cordelia and Lear. Interestingly the story Shakespeare took it from had a happy ending, and for 150 years his play was performed that way until Edmund Kean restored it to the bard’s version in 1823. Don’t miss seeing one or both of the casts (they are strikingly different) over this weekend. It’s free too! Kudos to the excellent casts, Irwin and the whole crew!! UCSB Performing Arts Theater Sept 7 – 10, first come, first served.