‘Queen Lear’ Flawed but Compelling

Satire V’s “Queen Lear” may not have been a professional take on Shakespeare, but it was a unique twist on a classic. Their adaptation of “King Lear” was punctuated by hit songs by the British band Queen, adding an interesting flair to a play that has been performed for centuries. With costumes and singing that poked fun at the Shakespearean classic, the intentional unprofessionalism was the main source of the humor for the show.

Set in the Leverett Library Theater, the setting of “Queen Lear” was simplistic. A black curtain hid the backstage and PowerPoint slides behind the actors gave the audience relevant information regarding the location of each scene. These slides also provided definitions from Wikipedia to clarify Shakespeare’s jokes or witty one-liners. Although PowerPoint is uncommon in serious theater, in this case it helped play up the goofiness of the performance.

The costumes were also humorously oversimplified. The men were armed with blow-up plastic guitars that they strummed vigorously during musical numbers. One actor wore a fake mustache that kept peeling off, another a fake beard that often got caught in his mouth. This lack of precision seemed both intentional and consistent with the rest of the show.

The singers were untrained, but that was probably the most comical aspect of the play. Actors delivered Shakespeare’s lines mere seconds before breaking out into a rendition of “We Are the Champions” by Queen. The dancing that accompanied the singing was overly dramatic, further playing into the idea that the unprofessionalism can add to the hilarity. However, there was one outlier in terms of singing. Cleanna Crabill ’19, who played Queen Lear, sang quite well, providing a break from the comical singing that characterized the rest of the play.

Satire V’s performance had a surprisingly good grasp on Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Hit songs by Queen were cleverly integrated into the plot without changing the the original too drastically. The actors cleverly assimilated the songs into the production. Edmund, played by Michael C. Kennedy-Yoon ’17, was portrayed as a bad boy complete with a leather jacket. His rendition of “Fat Bottomed Girls” was particularly delightful.

Edgar, played by Nick Durham ’20, was perhaps the most hilariously absurd character on the stage. His body language was goofy, as he slapped his hand to his foot with every step. During the particularly amusing number, “Somebody to Love,” he serenaded several members of the audience as he walked down the center aisle, singing loudly and poorly, drowning out other actors’ voices. Durham was also able to speak in a variety of accents that kept the audience on their toes. Each time his accent changed, the audience was taken aback, but was reminded that this play was different from the average Shakespearean performance. His performance kept the show lively even when the show’s “so bad it’s funny” act began to feel a little old.

“Queen Lear” was not “good” in a traditional sense, but it successfully executed its complete lack of adherence to the general rules of theater. The singing was playful, the costumes economical, and the premise absurd, all making “Queen Lear” a fun take on Shakespeare.

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