Friday, July 30, 2021

Tate in the Park

After two rained-out attempts, I finally got a chance to see New York Classical Theatre perform King Lear, as written by William Shakespeare and refinished by Nahum Tate.

In 1681, Tate "fixed" Shakespeare's most devastating tragedy by introducing a love story between Cordelia and Edgar, and by having the good characters all get to live in a bizarre happy ending.

For the most part, New York Classical has stuck with text Shakespeare wrote rather than following Tate's changes. Tate completely cut the fool, for instance, and this version not only retains that part, but like the recent Broadway production with Glenda Jackson, also double casts the role with that of Cordelia, even going so far as to explicitly have the fool be Cordelia in disguise.

But the production does keep Edgar's romance with Cordelia, and (most spectacularly) Tate's happy ending. Perhaps "happy" is too strong a word, since even when he's saved, Lear is painfully apprehensive. At one point in Tate's script, he says to Albany: "Com’st thou, inhuman Lord, to sooth us back / To a Fool’s Paradise of Hope, to make / Our Doom more wretched?"

Cordelia reigns as Queen at the end, and even blind Gloucester gets to live, adding his blessing to the marriage of Edgar and the new queen. After the Restoration, audiences who had recently been through the chaos of civil unrest, tyrannous leadership, and a nasty plague probably couldn't take the bleak ending Shakespeare provided. Well... New Yorkers today can relate, so thank you, New York Classical, for providing this magnificent respite!

The production is playing until August 8th in Battery Park, just outside Castle Clinton. There are chairs available, but I recommend bringing a blanket instead and having a picnic on the grass before the play starts. Showtime is at 7:00 pm, and while tickets are free, you will need to make a reservation.

Tonight, the weather was perfect for outdoor theatre, so go while you can. It isn't often you get to see a feel-good King Lear!