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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Victoria’s Secrets: Cheer for King Lear

Graphic made by Anna Cressman.

In the second episode of “Victoria’s Secrets,” host Victoria Freeman (CAS ’26) reviews Shakespeare Theatre Company’s current production of “King Lear,” which is running from Feb. 23 to April 16. Tune in to hear Freeman’s analysis of the production and why it reminds her of the song “Anywhere With You” by Maggie Rogers.


Victoria Freeman (VF): Hi, it’s Victoria, and I have a secret.

VF: I am really excited about today’s review because I have always, throughout my life, wanted to review theater, and I am finally getting to do it. 

In high school, I was a major theater nerd, and that is about to be unleashed full-force because I went to go see “King Lear,” the production by the Shakespeare Theatre Company, which is playing at the Klein Theatre until April 16th. 

And it wasn’t originally playing that long, but it is so good that it has been extended multiple times, meaning you do still have time to go see it. And I went to go see “King Lear” because it is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. I liked it enough to write a whole term paper about it in high school. And playing the main character of King Lear is the actor Patrick Page, who I’ve seen live before and I know to be fantastic. So I was very, very excited about this production. 

And if you don’t know the plot of King Lear, the basic idea is that he is an aging monarch who is seeking to divide his kingdom between his three daughters. And — spoiler alert — he does go insane. But there are no spoilers with Shakespeare — if you don’t know it by now, I’m sorry. So the first thing I want to address is the acting, which, long story short, it was really, really good. 

Patrick Page has unbelievable breadth. When he first walked in, in scene one, as this powerful king, the aura he gives off is unbelievable. He holds so much power in every single step. And yet by the time we get to the final scene — when he is aging, he’s ill, he’s insane — every single time he opens his mouth, he appears decrepit. It’s just the polar opposite of what he was at the beginning of the production that makes him so, so unbelievable. 

And in terms of his three daughters, they similarly surround him wonderfully. So Goneril, played by Rosa Gilmore, and Regan, played by Stephanie Jean Lane, are both honestly seeming kind of like the evil stepsisters from Cinderella, but in a really, really good way, because that’s what they’re supposed to do. You can tell that there are many layers in their acting because it’s important that they come off as genuine in their love to King Lear. But, we have to know that deep down, that love is in fact fake. And Cordelia, played by Lily Santiago, is unbelievable in how much power she holds with it, everything she does. 

So now we’re getting into the direction of the production. This was, of course, my favorite part. So this production was directed by Simon Godwin, and I think he explored a few really interesting things. And the first one is how he often played to the audience. So for example, the character of Edmund was often talking directly to the members of the first row. And of course, there was also entry and exit through the house, which I always love — it makes the production feel like it’s surrounding you in a really, really cool way. So I think that how much the characters played to the audience almost made it feel like the audience was subjects in this kingdom, and we were watching these internal politics play out — almost like a reality TV show, but for political and family machinations. So I really liked that choice. 

And another thing that I thought was done superbly, is that Godwin really focused in on the fact that, fundamentally, this is a story of familial love. It’s about how Lear feels towards his daughters and whether or not his daughters love him. And by the time we made it to the final scene, when Lear enters, holding Cordelia’s dead body before he himself dies — and again, sorry, there are no spoilers with Shakespeare here — it’s so clear that everything political was nothing but a side story to how much he loved his daughter and how much his daughter loved him. So of course, I was crying, and thank you, Simon Godwin, for that one. 

Next, getting into the more design aspect, which I love talking about because I just think it’s so much fun and I would, oh my goodness, I would always want to — that’s like a pipe dream of mine to do costume design for a theater production because what could be cooler than that? 

So the costume design, which was by Emily Rebholz, was amazing in that it made the production recognizable in our lives given the fact that it uses modern dress. Because one of the big downfalls of Shakespeare, in my opinion, is when it feels unrelatable to the audience. Because the last thing you want to do is remind the audience that this was something that was written however many centuries ago. You need the audience to feel close to it. And that is just exactly what the costume designer of this production does. 

Goneril’s and Regan’s costuming are a really, really good example of this. Honestly, they just come off like all grown-up trust-fund kids who are mothers of dogs, and they care so deeply about their dogs, they’re just giving that type of millennial. 

And I also think that the costumes really superbly showed contrasts between characters. For example, Edgar, played by Matthew J. Harris, and Edmund, played by Julian Elijah Martinez, were perfectly contrasted in the way that they were dressed in their first scenes together. You could tell that Edgar was sweet and well-meaning from the tweed jacket that he was wearing, and you could tell that Edmund was sleek and power-hungry from his uniform. 

And similarly, I thought the set, designed by Daniel Soule, was fantastic in that it was built to place an emphasis on how unnatural Lear’s concentration of power as this absolute monarch is. For example, at the beginning, when he still has all of his power, he divvies up his kingdom at an enormous desk far too big to be practical, which is set up in an airplane hangar, which is designed to be simple and show how out of place his power is. So this set design, in my opinion, was masterful. 

And in terms of my favorite moment in the production, it was the moment that comes right before the break between the acts, which is the tearing out of Gloucester’s eyes, who’s played by Craig Wallace in this production. And this was — the only word that I can use to describe this is visceral — you can feel it. Regan’s husband, the Duke of Cornwall, ripped out an eyeball with a melon baller, proceeded to stomp on it, and the audience sees bits of eye and blood just go flying everywhere. 

And the reason that this is so heartbreaking is because the way that Gloucester responds to getting his eyes torn out, is he calls for Edmund, his son, to come and save him. Well, Edmund’s betrayal is the very reason that he was left to the mercy of Regan and Cornwall and thus got his eyes torn out. So the violence that comes along with this isn’t even what breaks your heart the most. It’s the idea that this son could possibly betray his father in such a way. And that’s definitely what I will carry with me from this production. 

So in terms of the song that I’m going to use to describe this production, I would say it is “Anywhere With You” by Maggie Rogers. And is this a little bit of a stretch? Yes, it is. However, I’m focusing in on one particular line, which is the line, “If I’m gonna lose my mind, I’m gonna lose it with you.” And I think that this encapsulates really, really well Lear going insane, and the fact that all he really cares about, when it came down to it and his kingdom was torn away from him, was the love between him and his daughter, Cordelia. 

And now for the secret that I’ll give you about this production. The entire time, I have to admit that I was just thinking about the parallels between “King Lear” and the TV show “Succession.” Oh, my goodness, they are the same thing. If you don’t know what “Succession” is — which, I’m sorry, you should catch yourself up on that one — it is about the story of an aging CEO of a company, and he has to essentially divide his company up among his three children and to figure out who loves him the most and who’s going to be most capable of running his company. And I think the parallels between “Succession” and “King Lear” are almost insane. And I’m sure that those were very, very purposeful and that I’m not the first one to point this out, but I was just thinking about it the whole time. 

So it’s probably not going to surprise you that I do have to give this a 10 out of 10. I didn’t say a single thing negative so I don’t really know what you want from me. But all that I can ask of you is to please go see “King Lear” before it closes on April 16.

This podcast was recorded by me, Victoria Freeman, edited by David Yang and produced by Amna Shamim. Thanks for listening!

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