Directed by Bruce Levitt, Lear is set gratuitously in the 1920s and played as an Aaron Spelling prime time soap, where a family with three daughters is pitted against one with two sons -- a son-and-a-half really, as Edmond is illegitimate. Edmond relishes his outsider status, especially in his "stand up for bastards" speech. And as delivered with a dash of arrogance by the talented Chad Jason Scheppner, it's the best soliloquy of the festival.
The Roaring Twenties ambience hardly whimpers; it's used to stage a tango and get a gun in the action, but that's about it. The anachronisms spiral out of control when a chair is brought out for a weary Lear that is one of those canvas fold-ups being sold by your neighborhood Kmart. Is this some inside joke or sheer laziness?
Some have found Gary Neal Johnson in the title role a virtual locomotive; all I saw was the steam. His relentless tirades in the first act brought a perpetual bulging vein to his brow that should concern his general practitioner. But once he turned his burner from a boil to a simmer, there was more success to witness.
through July 15
at the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival
Southmoreland Park, 47th and Oak streets
806-889-7827, ext. 5011