WEEKEND: Port Townsend troupe to perform Shakespeare's 'King Lear' starting Friday

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The compact Key City Playhouse has been rearranged into an arena-style theater. Cornish College of the Arts teacher Kerry Skalsky is stepping into a new role. And the plans are big for the start of the season.

Shakespeare's “King Lear,” starring local actor Lawrason Driscoll, is the opening production in Key City Public Theatre's 56th main-stage season, to start tonight at the playhouse at 419 Washington St.

“I personally feel this is one of the greatest works of art in Western history,” said Skalsky, the Cornish drama instructor who's making his Key City directorial debut.

Like “Othello” and “Hamlet,” “King Lear” is definitive Shakespearean tragedy. Set in the eighth century B.C., this is the tale of a ruler who, by dividing his inheritance amongst his daughters, unwittingly unleashes a tumult of disorder.

Theater-goers will behold an epic exploration, Key City spokeswoman Shelly Randall promises, of the fine line between reason and madness. And then there are the themes of hubris and frailty, blindness and sight, loyalty and love.

“I think it's going to be a very visceral, surprising production, one that breaks expectations,” says Skalsky. “In our little theater, we're going for both intimacy and the size of the characters.”

Curtain times for “King Lear” are 7:30 p.m. each Thursday, Friday and Saturday, tonight through May 10, and 2:30 p.m. every Sunday this weekend through May 4. Tickets range from $20 to $24, or $10 for students. The exceptions are this Sunday's performance as well as next Thursday's, which are pay-what-you-wish, thanks to support from the Port Townsend Arts Commission.

AfterWords post-play discussions follow the show every Sunday and Thursday. And as always, Key City Public Theatre cooperates with the ReCyclery in Port Townsend to offer Bike Night, so those who pedal a bicycle to the theater Thursday, May 1, will receive $5 off admission or concessions.

Driscoll, who portrayed Prospero in Key City's 2010 production of Shakespeare's “The Tempest,” has been acting for 40 years. Now a Marrowstone Island resident, he has appeared on and off Broadway, in films and television shows including “M*A*S*H*” and “Laverne & Shirley.”

As for this role, “the range of emotions in 'Lear' is tremendous,” says Driscoll. “Lear's problems and difficulties are things everyone can relate to, either from the perspective of a parent or a child. I'm basing a lot of the character on my own experiences as a father.”

Jeff Allen Pierce and David Natale, the comic duo from Key City's 2013 production of “The Big Bang,” portray Edmund and Edgar, while Hewitt Brooks, who appeared in last year's “Heartbreak House,” plays Gloucester.

Actresses who hail from around the region play Lear's daughters: Sylvie Mae Baldwin is Cordelia, Samantha A. Camp portrays Goneril and Rosaletta Curry is Regan.

Kenn Mann, a visiting actor from New York City, plays the fool at Lear's court. Jeremiah Morgan, a veteran of Shakespeare in the Park productions, is Kent, an earl and the story's moral compass.

Sam Cavallaro, Vincent Scott, Mark Valentine and Peter Wiant complete the cast. Michelle Hensel is Skalsky's assistant director while Terry Tennesen designed the set, Ginger McNew created the costumes and Jake Taylor does hair and makeup. Steve Grandinetti provided sound design while Karen Anderson is the lighting designer.

With the 66-seat playhouse reconfigured for this show, there are five entrances to the stage. The actors will also play the alley between two sections of the audience.

And “King Lear” is a commitment: performances run three hours and 15 minutes with two intermissions. The play is not recommended for children younger than 12.

For details and tickets to “King Lear,” phone the Key City box office at 360-385-KCPT (5278), stop by the Key City Playhouse downtown or visit www.keycitypublictheatre.org.

This “King Lear” is “not Elizabethan,” Skalsky says of the show's period feel.

“It's almost timeless . . . Think an all-encompassing elegance and simplicity.”

Last modified: April 17. 2014 7:24PM
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