Lear jets

It's said that people spend the first half of their lives looking toward the future -- imagining who they'll be, what they'll do, what they'll be, who they'll do -- and the second half looking back at the past. Whether they see life's great sorrows and failures or its triumphs and achievements divides the pessimist from the optimist. We aren't encouraged to live in the moment, spending each day as though it were our last. We let time slip past instead of using it to the limit.

Indeed society brands people who live in the here and now as hedonists and bums too naïve or reckless to handle the real world and its responsibilities and sensibilities. They're madmen who can't deal with the truth, wrecking their own lives and everything they touch. And perhaps, for some at least, that's true. Take King Lear, for example. He made decisions off-the-cuff, rashly dividing his kingdom and fortune between his two eldest daughters because they swore they loved him, while cutting off his youngest and most beloved because of her honesty. In a quick moment he sealed his fate, handing his enemies the weapons to kill him and banishing his ally across the sea.

Fred Curchack's new play, Lear's Shadow, adds a second edge to the king's deadly sword. What if, instead of dying for his actions as he does in Shakespeare's play, Lear survived his consequences and was allowed to reflect on how living in the moment had caused his downfall. In Lear's Shadow, Curchack whips through King Lear and Shakespeare's other greatest feats (ghost stories, fairy tales, reunions, redemption, and loss) in just 70 minutes. Curchack plays an aging actor cared for by a young nurse (played by Shannon Kearns) who views a videotape of him and his then-girlfriend performing a two-actor version of King Lear.

As Curchack and Kearns interact onstage as patient and caretaker, they also interact on the videotape, covering all the characters in King Lear with costumes, masks, and puppets. Curchack even throws on the spiked heels for a turn as the ruling sisters Regan and Goneril. (The videotape, which was filmed at the University of Texas at Dallas where Curchack teaches theater, will be projected behind the stage and onto the actors themselves.) As the actor loses his mind, the play spins out of control. The characters onstage move into the film and vice versa. As the two worlds mesh, some characters get caught in the other dimension until, Curchack says, "the audience is money back-guaranteed driven mad or at least taken inside the madness of not only King Lear, but of the actors trying to understand the depths of such suffering." -- Shannon Sutlief

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Shannon Sutlief