By Victoria L. Dammer

The Frog and Peach Theatre Co. presented their homage to the greatest playwright of all time in their 2024 production of William Shakespeare’s King Lear, now playing at the Theatre at St. Clements.

Human frailties like narcissism, madness, betrayal, and death transcend centuries since this play was first written, and those tragic flaws live on today. King Lear throws multiple symbols for life’s struggle into the fray. The actors keep close to the original script, albeit in modern day clothing.

If “Shakespeare is for everybody,” this presentation strongly attracts both the first-time attendee and aficionados of all ages.

The audience first observes the demented, over-the-top narcissist King Lear (Greg Mullavey), pompous in his wish to dismantle and disappear from his royal duties. He wishes to give the largest portion of his wealth to his child, who loves him the most. This can only lead to an outcome that will turn bad, as his daughter Goneril (Amy Frances Quint) and Regan (Camelia Iturregui Fuertes) forswear their allegiance and love. Mullavey transforms Lear’s character skillfully from irrational to demented, as darkness overcomes him throughout the show. Quint and Fuertes were forcibly evil in their performances.

Lear spurns the purest of love expressed by his daughter Cordelia (Calley Luman) and disinherits her. Despite this foolishness, the King of France (Clayton Turner), who admires Cordelia’s honesty and virtues, marries her. Luman portrays the sweetness of Cordelia to perfection, a virtue which unfortunately leads to her untimely death.

King Lear presents the Earl of Gloucester (David Elyha), who recognizes Lear’s diminished mental capacity but cannot intervene in the transferring of power. His ego and ambition daunt him. Elyha is forceful yet eloquent in his portrayal of Gloucester, expressing rationality but ultimately double-crossed, physically blinded, and killed at the end of the drama.

Betrayal rears its ugly head between Gloucester’s first-born son Edgar (DazMann Still) and illegitimate son Edmund (Jonathan Reed Wexler). Still was dynamic throughout the evening and compelling. Wexler, sly as he plotted to usurp his half-brother, was superb. The evil Regan and her husband, The Duke of Cornwall (Anuj Parikh), pluck Gloucester’s eyes out, pinning the blame on Edmund. This becomes the foundation for more bad faith and death in the play. Shakespeare reminds us that relationships can be complicated.

Thousands of performances have showcased King Lear, filled with scores of literary elements, metaphors, imagery, and irony, just to name a few. Some of the greatest literary critics have scrutinized the play. There have been many interpretations and analysis, even by Sigmond Freud, because of so many emotional twists and turns. The Frog and Peach Theatre Co. deliver the thrill of Shakespeare to the modern stage in a performance that is truly for everybody.

Frog and Peach Theatre Co. presents King Lear at the Theatre at St. Clements.  Starring Amy Frances Quint, Gina Bonati, Anuj Parikh, Camelia Iturregui Fuentes, DazMann Still, Emmeline Chuy, Eric Ryan Swanson, Erica Cafarelli, Calley Luman, Clayton Turner, Riley Scott, David Elyha, Steven Ungar, Jaixa Irizarry, John L. Payne, James Nash, Laurence Cantor, Lenny Ciotti, Coleman Shu-Tung, Eric Doss, Greg Mullavey and Jonathan Reed Wexler. Directed by Lynnea Benson, costume and set design by Asa Benally, stage production by Lenyn Hernandez Marcia.

Theatre at St. Clements, 423 W. 46th Street, NYC 10036. Through February 18.  Tickets HERE