Third Culture at 2nd Stage Theatre
Through December 10th
Third Culture Theatre make their L.A. Theatre debut with Lear’s Daughters by Elaine Feinstein, the topical prequel to Shakespeare’s King Lear. The play examines the royal family’s tangled, origins by narrowing its focus on the complicated outcome of assault; how elusive it is to identify, and how speaking about it (until very recently) remains stigmatized. Third Culture’s inaugural production proves as ambitious as it is passionate.
The play explores abuse, manipulation and control, through the eyes of the abused;Lear’s daughters.The perpetrator, Lear himself (Katrina Kirkpatrick), is a physically and emotional abusive man and a roundly terrible father. But it’s the daughter’s desire for connection to their unstable mother (Kirkpatrick) and Nanny that proves most compelling. The play’s poetic language and descriptive prose blends modern language and the Bard, though often gave the play a reader’s theatre quality and less the sense of the play’s immediacy.
Sofia Hurtado plays Goneril, Lear’s oldest and most ambitious daughter, ferocious in her attempts to jockey for power and dominate her sisters. She’s beautiful and cunning, a compelling combination, but also very guarded. Kristen Couture wields a withdrawn energy as Lear’s middle child, Regan, the seeming black sheep of the family. She explores a deep vulnerability as she embodies shame and vulnerability intertwined. Sandy Rather’s performance as Cordelia, Lear’s youngest and most favored daughter, is vibrant and well-measured. This character serves as the play’s moral compass which Rather seems to embrace. The dissolution of her innocence is particularly painful.
Katrina Kirkpatrick plays a fool with a heart of gold. She variously embodies both Lear and Queen as as the Fool, a character that both comments upon and participates in the action. She has a way of enticing an audience, she’s two parts humor and one part magic. Kirkpatrick shape-shifts smoothly though physical blocking slows the show’s pace. Jasmine Williams finds a savage strength as Nurse, the girl’s true mother-figure and only sense of parental love and security. Williams taps in to a primal motherly instinct of a chronically abused woman who is then cruelly betrayed and has a grounded and quiet and deeply powerful presence. Her reveal the the end of the play is both chilling and justified, we understand why she’s exacted her revenge, heinous as it may be. Williams is at times under-voiced; her entire performance deserves to be heard.
The well-guided vision of director Lauren Boone keeps the storytelling tight and the staging clean. Boone uses the space appropriately and keeps the story focused and on message. Costume design by Zebonia Duncan is excellent. The clothing is simple and elegant and serves as extensions of each of the character’s unique personalities and taste.
Lear’s Daughters most clearly speaks to the fragility and sacral bond between parent and child, the lasting effect of both support or neglect. Telling Lear’s story from a female point of view is no small task, but it’s a story that needs to be told, it’s a light that must be shined so that the story can be changed. And for Third Culture Theatre, a noteworthy debut indeed.
2nd Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Fri.,- Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m.; through December 10th. Tickets: third-culture-theatre.ticketleap.com/lears-daughters/. Running time 90 minutes with no intermission.