A review of the Ed Sylvanus Iskandar-directed all-male (majority black male actors) staging of Shakespeare's King Lear submitted by Rod Gailes OBC, winner of the last Shadow And Act $3,000 Black Filmmaker Challenge (he's currently in post-production on the short film he made with the cash, and we should be debuting it in coming weeks). It'll run through the 27th, presented by Exit, Pursued By A Bear, here in New York City for those interested, or even mildly curious.
Plus it's FREE, you get a dinner, and you're encouraged to bring drinks and dessert. But you have to RSVP. Details HERE.
In addition to the fact that Rod penned the review, I should also mention that the cast of this interpretation of Shakespeare's work is made up primarily of black male actors - and one of them stars in Rod's S&A Filmmaker Challenge short film, Soft Focus.
Last night, I had the great pleasure of experiencing EPBB's pitch perfect 5 hour all male, theatrical extravaganza, "King Lear" and was WOW'd!!! Set in the 1980's "Ball" culture, the production contextualizes Lear as "Queen Mother" of "The House of Lear" dividing "her" lands among the most complimentary of her "daughters". We know the story, but this...this familiar tale is told with several tangy twists.
Towering on a series of heels that would give a supermodel cause to pause, force of Nature, Billy Porter, serves us a Bold, Saucy, scenery chewing, yet textured re-imagining of the titular Lear that is pure theater gold. Director Iskandar & his androgynous band of merry men revive the word "ensemble" in its truest sense. BRAVO.
Having never had the opportunity to see the unabridged Lear, I am convinced there is no more enjoyable way for it to be done than the one Mr. Iskandar has concocted. Lounging on sofas, chaise, chairs & ottomans, we, the audience, were treated to pre-show libations served by a cast chock full of Broadway veterans, a first intermission dinner of spiced rice noodles (and a delicious banana bread), and a second intermission potluck of desserts. Good food, good service, good company, and good THEATRE! All tucked neatly in a residential studio space (location a secret until invited).OMG! Boutique, private, underground theater at it's privileged BEST.
But lest one be seduced by the trappings, please know the evening includes more bravura performances than can be mentioned here. Soul Stirring vocal commentary by "The Voice", Mykal Kilgore is a welcome surprise at the start and end of each act, increasing in frequency as the evening progresses. Jon-Michael Reese's "Cordelia" oozes a regal sensitivity that belies gender specificity. The curiously ageless, Noah Galvin as "Fool" is a consistent joy, especially in his one on one counseling sessions with "the Queen".
Tyrone Mitchell Henderson as "Gloucester" is charming & heart breaking. Curtis Wiley's "Duke of Albany" was a cool breeze. And the list goes on and on through the more than 17 person cast.
A special shout out to "Regan" AKA "Kunta" AKA Aaron Moten (recent Julliard grad & one of the stars of the new OBC DreamTheatre/Shadow And Act film, "SOFT FOCUS")! His "Regan" is disturbingly vampyric and measured in ways it would only spoil to outline here. Suffice it to say, Brilliant!! No wig necessary.
If EPBB continues with this kind of visionary approach to creating unique evenings of theatre, the sky's the limit. I can't imagine what they have in store for us next!!. Stay tuned.
King Lear runs Friday thru Monday at a private undisclosed location thru July 2nd. Find it if you can! LOL (na-nu-na-nu-na-na)
Rod Gailes OBC is a writer, director for the stage & screen, arts educator, and culture commentator