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A ‘King Lear’ for the ages! Derek Jacobi stars in BAM production

The Brooklyn Paper

He’s been Hamlet in “Hamlet,” Richard II in “Richard II,” Julius Caesar in “Julius Caesar,” and Macbeth in “Macbeth.” And now, Derek Jacobi is taking on the obvious role in “King Lear.”

The Tony Award-winning actor stars in Donmar Warehouse’s production of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, running at the Brooklyn Academy of Music starting April 28.

“It’s an overwhelmingly successful interpretation of Shakespeare’s play,” said Joseph Melillo, the executive director of BAM. “What’s so powerful is Derek Jacobi’s performance. The kind of strength that he has vocally and emotionally, you are overwhelmed by his acting.”

After decades on stage, Jacobi, a master of Shakespeare’s verse, is up to the task of portraying the aging monarch, who, after offering to divide up his land among his three daughters based on who loves him the most, is soon driven mad by the move.

It’s a meaty, contradictory role that’s attracted such diverse actors as Laurence Olivier (twice), Orson Welles, James Earl Jones, Kevin Kline and Ian McKellen, who starred four years ago in a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company that ran at BAM under the direction of Trevor Nunn.

Here, Michael Grandage directs what promises to be an insightful, moving investigation into of one of Shakespeare’s most revered — and one of his most popular — tragedies.

“The biggest asset is that Michael clarifies the storytelling,” said Melillo. “I don’t think there’s any ambiguity in his production. You understand people’s motivations and actions.”

Melillo isn’t the only one excited about the company coming to Brooklyn.

“To bring our piece to Brooklyn is so cool,” said company member Pippa Bennett-Warner, who plays Cordelia, Lear’s youngest daughter. “Brooklyn is a wicked place. And the [BAM] space is absolutely beautiful. I’m excited about everything.”

“King Lear” at the BAM Harvey Theater [651 Fulton St. at Rockwell Place in Fort Greene, (718) 636-4100], April 28-June 5. Tickets $25-$80. For info, visit www.bam.org.

– Meredith Deliso

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Reader Feedback

Enzo from Park Slope says:
"British legend Derek Jacobi is one of those actors who seems to always be doing Shakespeare."

If legend Jacobi "always be doing Shakespeare," he might just qualify as a great Shakespearean, you think?
April 20, 2011, 5:01 pm
Tim from Park Slope says:
In my experience you generally have to be a good actor to begin with in order to be able to perform Shakespeare.

I will be seeing this!
April 21, 2011, 3:38 pm

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