Gerry Rose, Jennifer Pennington & Barrett Cooper in King Lear.
Photo-Kelly Moore


King Lear

By William Shakespeare
Directed by J. Barrett Cooper and Alec Volz

Review by Carlos Manuel

Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Carlos Manuel. All rights reserved.

As a reviewer I’ve seen my share of plays over the years, not only in Louisville but also in the many cities around the country and the world where I have lived. Needless to say I have seen an array of excellent productions, good productions, okay productions, and productions that should had never happened.  This goes for all types of theatre, including the Bard of Avon’s works.

In my lifetime, I have been fortunate enough to see Shakespeare’s plays in different countries and, therefore, different languages such as English, Spanish, Italian, Hindi, Japanese, and Dutch. But from all these experiences, only two theatre companies—dedicated to producing Shakespeare—have kept me interested in such classical work, and both companies are in the UK. One is The Globe Theatre in London, which is of course, where Shakespeare mounted his productions and the other is Propeller Theatre Company, which is an all-male ensemble from Canterbury, England. In my opinion, these two companies have always been able to present Shakespeare’s works in a clear and understandable manner, with productions that stand out in all artistic and technical areas.

Until last night’s opening of Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company’s production of King Lear, I never thought I would consider adding a third name to my list of favorite classical theatre companies. But perhaps I should because with an almost empty stage, simple lighting, basic sound, and an ensemble that makes the audience understand and appreciate the complexity of Shakespeare’s language, this Lear is a tour de force production that must be seen by anyone that loves theatre, appreciates outstanding acting, and enjoys Shakespeare’s plays in their simplest form.

The assembled cast, from the actor who has one or two lines to the actor who plays the title role, is superb from the moment the lights come up and until the play is over. And under the co-direction of J. Barrett Cooper and Alec Volz, this wonderful ensemble doesn’t miss a beat. Each actor does an outstanding job, and of course, those actors playing supporting and leading roles are exceptional. It is for these reason that rather than singling out any actor, I feel it is best to emphasize the work of the entire cast as a collective. While in other productions I’ve seen the results are mixed from the leading and supportive members to the ensemble, in this show every theatre artist involved in the production, as well as every technical and design element, falls perfectly into place. It is because of this mutual professional strength that Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company offers the audiences a solid performance filled with torment, bravery, betrayal, darkness, and an emotional connection that made many of the audience members at the opening night show laugh, and cry.

It isn’t very often that a Shakespeare play is presented as an “accumulation of tragedies” where everything is “stripped down and bare.” This approach works remarkably well. So, if you have not seen Savage Rose’s King Lear, I urge you to go because to be part of a theatrical experience where clarity, focus, diction, motivations, pronunciation, and goals are as rich, as professional, as strong, and as solid as with this ensemble, is very rare. 

King Lear

March 21-24*, 27, 28 at 7:30pm
March 29 at 2:00pm & 8:00pm
March 30 at 3:00pm
*Community Night Performance

Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company
Nancy Niles Sexton Stage at Walden Theatre
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40204

Tickets $17 general admission
$14 for students
$12 for March 24th performance and for groups of 10 or more
Call 502-599-3011 or visit