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Theater 2018-19: Redtwist celebrates 15th year by raising monument in tiny space: ‘King Lear’

Submitted by on Aug 22, 2018 – 3:45 pm

Fourth in a series of season previews: Plays by Guare, Ibsen and Guirgis will set stage for Redtwist’s first venture into Shakespeare.
By Lawrence B. Johnson

Fifteen years into its history of creating high-voltage drama in a really small space, Redtwist Theatre will roll out its first production ever by the Bard of Avon. And what else would you choose for a first leap into Shakespeare on a post-stamp stage but “King Lear”?

“At first we laughed about the idea of trying to do ‘Lear’ in our small space,” says Michael Colucci, Redtwist’s founding artistic director, “but we know that if the emotional power is there, the space is not a liability. We’ll probably use a wide-open playing area with the audience seated along the walls.”

In the title role, one of the most revered parts in the dramatic canon, English or otherwise, will be veteran Redtwist ensemble member Brian Parry, whose recent work at the storefront theater in Edgewater includes Richard M. Nixon in Peter Morgan’s “Frost/Nixon,” Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and George in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

“Brian has been after me for years to play Lear, but I kept telling him no, that he was too young for it,” says Colucci. “But when he brought it up this time, I didn’t hesitate. I just instinctively knew it was right.”

Also on Redtwist’s 2018-19 calendar of five plays are three other high-profile plays: John Guare’s “Six Degrees of Separation,” which received both a Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1991, Henrik Iben’s “Ghosts” and Stephen Adly Guirgis’ “Between Riverside and Crazy,” winner of the 2015 Pulitzer.

The season in brief:
  • “Six Degrees of Separation” by John Guare (Sept. 8-Oct. 7): What happens when a total stranger enters your life and changes it forever? Based on a true story, this Olivier Award winner for Best Play examines the impact of a charming young con man on a mature wealthy woman when she suddenly begins to care for his well-being. “Guare’s play puts class and race into relief,” says Colucci. “This young guy comes in and hoodwinks a couple – says he’s Sidney Poitier’s son. He insinuates himself into their lives. It’s a peculiar play, almost absurdist. It reminds me of Pirandello and Pinter.”
  • “Ghosts” by Henrik Ibsen (Nov. 10-Dec. 10): The main character, Mrs. Alving, has done the socially correct thing: She stuck with her late philandering husband as her pastor urged her to do. Now he’s dead but she and her son are still hounded his foul legacy. The play’s world premiere was given by a touring troupe of Danish actors in 1882 – in Chicago. “Ibsen’s greatest plays are such finely crafted pieces of writing,” says Colucci, “and this one is absolutely modern in its social liberalism. The version we’re doing is streamlined to a 90-minute script that’s taut and sharp.”
  • “Between Riverside and Crazy” by Stephen Adly Guirgis (Jan. 12-Feb. 10, 2019): Pops, an ex-cop and widower, clings to one of the last rent-controlled apartments in New York City, dealing with a never-ending swirl of demands from needy family, friends, even his former colleagues. Add to that list a shady church lady. It’s a hassle everywhere Pops turns until he resolves to draw the line and make some demands of his own. “Between Riverside and Crazy” received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. “Guirgis is at the top of his game,” says Colucci. “The play is so beautifully written. This poor old guy, a retired cop, just wants to enjoy life, but everybody wants something from him.”
  • “Herland” by Grace McCleod (March 16-April 14, 2019): Three seventysomething women join forces to set up house and carve out their own path in their golden years, and they mean business. The Redtwist production is part of the rolling world premiere accorded “Herland” by New Play Exchange at the National New Play Network. “Grace McCleod is a bright young playwright just out of the University of Chicago,” says Colucci. “She gives us these three older widows who have decided to collaborate on their living arrangements. They have a care giver who injects some issues of her own into the mix. It’s the kind of show that fits well into Redtwist’s intimate space.”
  • “King Lear” by William Shakespeare (July 6-Aug. 4, 2019): In Shakespeare’s razor-sharp dissection of the sin of pride, an aging king succumbs to the fulsome but empty protestations of love by two of his daughters and dismisses the quiet devotion of a third. His vanity brings down his entire world, at the same time inflicting great cost on those who truly care about him. Redtwist ensemble member Brian Parry will portray King Lear. Steve Scott will direct. ‘King Lear’ is so big, so powerful,” says Colucci. “In our intimate space, this is going to be intense.”

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