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Shakespeare’s ‘Lear’ at Theatricum Botanicum – she’s a Queen!

The gorgeous stage at Theatricum Botanicum
The gorgeous stage at Theatricum Botanicum
Dena Burroughs

Shakespeare’s King Lear, the best tragedy every written (if you ask George Bernard Shaw), is now performing at the Theatricum Botanicum with a significant change – It is Queen Lear who goes mad after dealing with her three sons – Goneril, Regan, and Cordelian.

The gender reversal allows the Theatricum’s artistic director, Ellen Geer, to flawlessly perform the title role, and it demands the portrayal of strong females in the roles of Duchess of Cornwall and Duchess of Albany. The change makes this production fresh and interesting, which was precisely the intention of the directors. Reads the program: “By bringing in the feminine element to this great script, the good and the bad of the feminine element, the play re-invents itself for today’s world. […] I think he [Shakespeare] would hale our bringing his text forward in a way that bonds the work to modern society.”

Lear is the tragedy per excellence, with good and bad characters that indiscriminately end up dead or unhappy, but not without first presenting the audience with an amazing story of betrayal, madness, and reconciliation. At the Theatricum the tale is told not only on stage but on top of roofs, on trees, even behind the audience. The horror of Glaucester’s brutal blinding by Regan is here a scene that would make Shakespeare proud.

Lear at the Theatricum is enthralling, the great performances heightened by the beauty of the venue. You should freshen up on the story of Lear, get yourself a nice bottle of wine, some cheese and crackers, and head to the Theatricum an hour prior to the performance. Few places dedicated to theater in Los Angeles are as beautiful as this one. Being here predisposes your mind to embrace what you are about to see.

Lear will play through September 28 in repertory with the Bard’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. You can find specific dates at Tickets start at $25; with special prices for children, seniors, students, and veterans.

The Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd, Topanga CA 90290. This is an outdoor amphitheater terraced into a hillside. No matter how hot the day may be, the theater becomes chilly in the evening. Dress casually and bring a jacket to keep you warm.


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