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Familiar Parenting Theme Plays Out in Quill’s “King Lear” at VMFA’s Leslie Cheek Theater

King Lear, William Shakespeare’s tragic tale of self-betrayal, deceit, and loyalty, presented by Quill Theatre in partnership with VMFA, depicts two parallel cautionary tales of parents caught in sibling rivalry, a theme as old as Cain and Abel.

When dividing his kingdom, King Lear (Joe Inscoe) believes the praise of his lying daughters Goneril (Bianca Bryan) and Regan (Molly Hood), but is furious when daughter Cordelia (Irene Kuykendall) KingLear-140-X3refuses to engage in this game of false flattery for her own gain. Earl of Gloucester (Joe Pabst) similarly believes his manipulative son Edmund (Axle Burtness) at the expense of his loyal son Edgar (David Janosik). Both Lear and Gloucester pay the price for their foolishness. King Lear goes mad as Goneril and Regan’s true colors and feelings emerge. Gloucester pays for his error with his eyesight in a bloody scene (my favorite!).

Though the play is about familial fidelity, it also about man’s relationship with nature. Set designer Tennessee Dixon, musical composer Matt Treacy, and lighting designer BJ Wilkinson collaborate to take full advantage of VMFA’s beautiful Leslie Cheek Theater to create an austerely elegant tableau befitting this classic. The genius of the setting is evident during the magnificient storm scene, where Lear rages in a thunderstorm that mirrors the tempest within.  KingLear-54-X3

Jan Powell directs this solid and competent cast. Talented Joe Inscoe plays Lear with passion and nuance and Matthew Radford Davies creates an audience connection as Earl of Kent. As Edmund, Burtness shines as he shares with us his alternating treachery and fealty, switching effortlessly between the two. Fools John Mincks and Killian Winn provide a memorable and unique take on the Shakespearean interpreters with their fascinating and original shared dance.

It is easy from our theater seats to wonder how parents can be so gullible. A familiar memory from my childhood plays our involving the backseat of the family car. Since parents never seem to actually turn around, it was deliciously easy to simulate sibling abuse using sound effects and whining. The parents inevitably reprimanded my sister for being an innocent dupe, even well into our adulthood. How did they fall for it so easily?

This treasure is appropriate for all the Shakespeare fans in your family. King Lear plays at VMFA’s Leslie Cheek Theater through April 23, 2016. For showtimes and tickets, visit Quill Theatre.


Enter to win tickets from RFM to Quill Theatre’s King Lear at VMFA’s Leslie Cheek Theater.

Over the past twenty-five years in higher education as a teacher, coach, and a faculty and student development professional, Dr. Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert has taught and counseled hundreds of students and faculty members on interpersonal relationships and personal development. She is the founder of Foundation for Family and Community and Healing.

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