Closed 3h 30m
King Lear (Broadway)
Midtown W
75

King Lear (Broadway) NYC Reviews and Tickets

75%
(391 Reviews)
Positive
71%
Mixed
21%
Negative
8%
Members say
Great acting, Ambitious, Disappointing, Absorbing, Confusing

About the Show

After playing the role to critical acclaim in London, Emmy, Tony, and Academy Award-winning actress Glenda Jackson ("Three Tall Women") brings her take on Shakespeare's mad monarch to a new production on Broadway.

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Member Reviews (391)

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70
Relevant, Wide range of actors, Intense, Flawed, Long

See it if you love WS and can endure some bad choices (directing/acting/design). Standout Wilson. Oppty to see Jackson (imperfect, but fascinating).

Don't see it if you need uniform strg perfs. Many disappting actors. Or you want clear story (disappting director). Use of music mixed bag. Still, memorable Read more

75
Long, Slow, Great staging, Great acting

See it if you love Shakespeare or want to see Jackson's astounding performance. The staging is great. Use of comedy wherever possible.

Don't see it if It's long & many parts are unintelligible to the untrained ear. Read more

Critic Reviews (46)

April 4th, 2019

"It should surprise no one that Ms. Jackson is delivering a powerful and deeply perceptive performance as the most royally demented of Shakespeare’s monarchs. But much of what surrounds her in this glittery, haphazard production seems to be working overtime to divert attention from that performance...By and large, the performances seem to have been blown into uneasy coexistence by random winds from different directions."
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April 4th, 2019

"Gold’s production is full of interesting directorial choices that do not quite cohere into a shared universe for 'King Lear’s' characters to inhabit...Some of these performances work well on their own terms. What’s missing is a larger sense of shape...This production doesn’t want to be indulgent or overwrought; perhaps it doesn’t want to risk dishonesty. But after three and a half hours of diffuse dramatics, I felt nothing."
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April 4th, 2019

"After a royal amount of hype built on the promise of the towering Glenda Jackson’s role-defining performance, the painful truth is that Sam Gold’s 'King Lear' is a hot, heavy mess. And more painful still, Jackson’s Lear fails to transcend it...Underneath the production’s winks and nods, there’s nothing there — meanwhile, the play languishes somewhere in the wings. Most distressing of all, Jackson, for all her innate and palpable power, isn’t saving it."
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April 4th, 2019

"Gold makes a lot of audacious choices, many of which you might disagree with, but they are seldom uninteresting...Gold at times lays on this contemporary veneer a tad too thickly...But even with on-the-nose moments like this, the production still feels thematically undercooked...Still, while the ensemble doesn't feel unified, there are some standout performances, Pascal's terrific Broadway debut as Edmund among them."
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April 4th, 2019

"She offers her own take on male frailty and hubris, her voice booming, her focus astonishing. If her gender enters into her portrayal at all, it is only fleetingly toward the end; it may be in the eye of this beholder, but a woman grieving a child registers differently from man facing the same catastrophe...Worth mention in an overall solid cast is Broadway regular John Douglas Thomas as the Earl of Kent...It is this returning veteran in the title role that makes this Lear memorable."
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April 4th, 2019

"Although Jackson fails to wring tears, let alone blood, from this production, the sheer intelligence of her performance makes it memorable...The supporting performances are all over the place, and the fidelity to fashionable race/gender/age-blind casting sometimes requires work to figure out who’s who...The bland staging has no discernible unity or vision, and actors rarely connect. In the end, you’re really here for Glenda Jackson...Wouldn’t have missed it for the world."
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April 4th, 2019

"This 'Lear' is a knock-out...A production of many memorable parts and moments...Wilson's performance grows in strength and vitality and even poignance, as if Wilson and director Gold have decided that only a truly go-for-broke approach could withstand the force of nature that is Jackson. They choose wisely...Scholars have long debated on whether the Fool is actually Cordelia...Gold suggests he has the answer. It isn’t the first or last moment of truth in this extraordinary production."
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April 4th, 2019

"Confoundingly muddled evening...On the evidence of this latest version, no one is going to go near this thorny brute of a play there again anytime soon. Not that Jackson isn’t an inspired choice for Lear...Little effort has gone into creating the impression that all these characters occupy the same space or to establishing with any secure command of temporal logistics where we are at any given moment."
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April 4th, 2019

"The production flows with confidence and is never for a moment dull. But if this revival represents a step forward for Gold’s career, it is a step backward for Shakespeare’s play, which has lost much of its excruciating pathos in the directorial hubbub...Unfortunately, the production and her performance often seem at loggerheads. Jackson tunes out the more boisterous antics of Gold’s staging while doing her best to tune into her fellow cast members."
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April 4th, 2019

"A radical, enigmatic and uneven production that nonetheless showcases one of the great actresses of the stage, an octogenarian possessed of such energetic intensity and rhetorical accuracy as to seem almost superhuman. Jackson is a sight to behold, and to hear, in flawless rendition of the great text, which roars from her lower register like the play’s famous thunder...Gold’s 'King Lear' just has a better understanding of what needs to go than what needs to take its place."
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April 4th, 2019

"Jackson’s performance is superb — at first...Her transition into Lear’s state of madness is underwhelming. She essentially remains the same as before, just a bit sillier and looser. Similarly, the production as a whole loses impact as it goes along, owing to its extended length and the fact that many of its original flourishes begin to lose their luster and feel strained and disjointed. Even so, there are many compelling characterizations throughout."
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April 4th, 2019

"Jackson's mighty talents are just about enough to make up for the many missteps in Sam Gold’s flawed staging. What doesn’t work is the seeming lack of cohesion in this production. The setting is rather contemporary and the acting styles seem all over the place...The lack of a strong directorial hand extends to the production design...Male or female, she may be the best Lear you’re ever likely to see. But oh a kingdom for a better production."
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April 4th, 2019

"Glenda Jackson in the title role is the main attraction here, and her ferocious energy unbelievably never sags once during the show's three-and-a-half hours. Too bad that her frisky, wholly original performance seems to be going head-to-head with a director intent on imposing conceptual devices at every turn...The real focus of Gold's 'Lear' gets mired as multiple concepts vie for the spotlight...One concept that does work — brilliantly — is the casting of Harvard, a deaf actor, as Cornwall."
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April 24th, 2019

"Her characterization in the current production is a dismayingly small-scale creation, stripped of grandeur and only rarely making meaningful contact with the others onstage. Indeed, this Lear barely seems to be a king at all...The rest of Sam Gold's production is a mix of interesting and irritating ideas...Staged at a stately pace, with an uneven company, grating music, and a star in her own personal universe, this is not a 'Lear' for the ages."
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April 4th, 2019

"All of these lovely moments somehow never manage to fully coalesce into a seamless and satisfying whole, owing in large part to a failure to keep the main character as the constant focal point...Some of best moments of the play come at quieter times, where no one is being antic or outlandish, when everything softens to a hush, and Shakespeare's words soar and the performances drop all artifice...A long three-and-a-half hour trek without a fulfilling payoff."
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April 4th, 2019

"Gold’s 'Lear' is as much a showcase for excellent ensemble acting as it is a star vehicle...Jackson delivers a devastating portrait of the king’s struggle to restore clarity and retain dignity as madness encroaches. She gets expert support from two other actresses cast in traditionally male roles...Other directorial touches can seem gratuitous, or mannered...For an actress who has always eschewed vanity, Lear has clearly provided a prize worth relishing—for her and for us."
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April 4th, 2019

"Glenda Jackson is every inch the king...If you’re there to see Jackson, you won’t be disappointed. Her performance is a study in detail: Notice her perfect posture in the opening court scene—every gesture measured, down to the finger...The rest of Gold’s production lacks that kind of laser focus...But the show’s secret weapon might be stage vet John Douglas Thompson, who plays the oft-underappreciated Kent."
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April 10th, 2019

“It gives me no joy to report that Jackson and the production are both superficial, incoherent and emotionally dead. Worst of all, the whole affair’s boring...The actors are a transatlantic hodge-podge...The music is nice but inconsequential...at key moments distracting, and the presence of musicians onstage is awkward at best...Gold’s aloof, anemic direction leeches momentum and passion from each scene...This is the most hateful and unredeemed Lear I’ve ever seen.”
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April 5th, 2019

"Gold and Jackson have fashioned something rare: a gut-wrenching show that plays comparatively straight with that insanely daunting, logic-challenging text while taking risks that inevitably will offend purists...There is not a moment in the performance in which Jackson is anything less than commanding...The company is uneven, and some of the performances lack conviction and specificity, though the key roles are keenly played.”
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April 4th, 2019

“Jackson’s Lear is, naturally, the production’s dominant, galvanizing force: It’s a performance as fiery and ferocious as it is authoritative. But she is surrounded by a cast of fellow female performers who often outshine their male counterparts in director Sam Gold’s largely compelling if uneven production...This ‘Lear’ mostly gains its power from the stimulating interrelationships etched by the women in the cast...A powerful argument for more such gender-neutral casting."
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May 8th, 2019

"This is neither the same production nor the same director with which Jackson returned to the London stage in 2016 after 23 years as a Member of British Parliament. American director Sam Gold follows his controversial and provocative modern dress productions of 'Othello' with Daniel Craig at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2016 and his 'Hamlet' with Oscar Isaac in 2017 with this uneven and even eccentric version of 'Lear' which does not do Jackson any favors."
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April 21st, 2019

"Regardless of the fact that Jackson is surprisingly sturdy, she's a frail-looking presence who, regardless of how incisively she speaks Lear's words, has nothing in the least bit manly about her...When Lear goes mad, does the softened, chastised character affect us. Unfortunately, Lear now seems more an octogenarian Ophelia than an antiquated Lear…As the deaths and gimmicks pile up, it's impossible not to view the proceedings as a showcase for anything but the play."
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April 8th, 2019

“Jackson lives up all the hype about the gender busting role that brought her back to the stage...On the other hand, having the Ivo Vanhov-ish director Gold at the helm made my loving this production more iffy...Some of Gold's directorial tactics work pretty well here, though others tend to be more clunky and distracting than subtle...This is indeed a not to be missed star turn by Jackson, with enough positive assets to overcome the directorial missteps.”
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April 8th, 2019

"While Gold's direction doesn't always serve his actors, Jackson's performance in the nominal role is sublime...She gives us a Lear who when the play opens wields absolute authority by a mere raising of an eyebrow...The versatile Wilson gives an alert, canny interpretation to her Cordelia and a sassy vaudevillian spin to her Fool...Honors for the best Shakespearian chops in the support cast go to John Douglas Thompson."
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May 7th, 2019

“I can only advise going to see the current production of 'King Lear'...if you really want to see Glenda Jackson in the title role. She’s very good, but it’s a muddle of a production because Sam Gold, the director, seems to have thrown every idea he’s ever had at it and then left the room. Leaving all the actors to do their own version. It doesn’t make for a cohesive or particularly coherent presentation. If you’ve never been to a Shakespeare play before, don’t make this one your first.”
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April 20th, 2019

“The show really belongs to the three woman who have taken on these male roles elevating them to godliness. So ignore the mess at their feet, and focus your eyes on these three women. But mainly King Glenda. The woman is as daring an actor as any who have taken on this lion of a part. She rips it apart with clarity and passion, giving meaning and distinction at every turn. She’s a force of nature, and a King among Kings in the history of this iconic play."
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April 10th, 2019

“Shakespeare’s patriarchal power play gets a Broadway reboot, thanks to Jackson’s star turn in the title role. But if you’re expecting a literal gender-bending commentary...Gold’s slick and somewhat stoic production might leave you with more questions than answers...A first-rate and culturally diverse ensemble, but the mash-up of styles require a suspension of disbelief...This ‘King Lear’ is a polished crown that could use a few more thorns.”
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C
April 4th, 2019

"When Lear is finally driven to semi-madness late in the play, Jackson is truly heartbreaking, her sharp mind almost as tattered as her clothing...Jackson’s incredible turn is not just one of the finest of the season – or maybe any season; sadly, though, it’s practically the only good reason to sit through this misguided 3 ½-hour production. Gold, a provocative auteur-like helmer who has proven he can handle Shakespeare, unwisely takes a more-is-more approach to 'Lear.'"
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April 4th, 2019

"If Jackson’s performance turns this inventive but imperfect production into a must-see of the Broadway Spring season, it’s not just because of her impressive stamina and control. It’s also the appearance of physical fragility that helps make her Lear stand out...Gold creates some memorable theatrics in his 'King Lear,' some of which illuminate the text for us, little of which undermine it for me...The one directorial choice that I found most problematic was the original music by Philip Glass."
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April 4th, 2019

"Thrilling, cluttered, inventive and exhausting, Sam Gold’s 'King Lear,' which stars an impish and imperious Glenda Jackson, throws a stack of director’s theater clichés at its marble walls. Some of them stick...Some of the performances are exhilarating, some aren’t and the storytelling dazzles, then rambles...See it now for Jackson, towering even in Lear’s infirmity, and for its other occasional felicities, but know that it’s still a slog."
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April 18th, 2019

“Two words make the only reason to see the current production...Glenda Jackson...Jackson lives up to expectations, with a powerful, remarkable performance...Some of the cast members are good, but the production lacks distinction...No matter...This is Jackson’s show, and she certainly delivers...This production, which will most likely be forgotten except as the occasion of Jackson demonstrating her prowess with her memorable, award-caliber performance.”
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April 13th, 2019

"Glenda Jackson is ravishing in an otherwise incohesive and uneven 'King Lear' by auteur Sam Gold. Ms. Jackson’s captivating storm of a performance, an original score by Philip Glass, and arresting visual and aural moments are highlights. The balance of the cast is uneven, and the play itself rendered as emotionally clinical."
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April 4th, 2019

"The joy of watching Glenda Jackson as Lear in Sam Gold’s lean and clear production is that she doesn’t approach every well-known speech or phrasing at a grandiloquent gallop...This is a cast that honors, has thought about, then handsomely delivers Shakespeare’s greatest words, and—mission accomplished—the audience this critic sat within was rapt for three-plus hours...Its only fault, and it was a significantly intrusive one for this critic, is a group of musicians,"
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April 5th, 2019

“The befuddling ‘King Lear' is, to put it bluntly, a hot mess...Jackson is delivering a formidably precise performance...Jackson’s iron grip on one of the greatest roles ever written is hardly the problem...Many among the starry company seem to be in their own productions, for lack of a unifying eye from Gold’s mishandled direction...The vigor of Shakespeare rendered in American Sign Language is the closest this production comes to raising the pulse.”
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April 7th, 2019

"The highly anticipated show fully lives up to the status of legendary, epic, and historic. This is one for the ages. From the moment the play begins, it enthralls...And if there were ever any doubt that a woman could effectively embody the aged male monarch and his descent into madness, Jackson allays that concern with a ferocious performance that sets a new standard for Lear...A gripping presentation of a classic...It is must-see theater."
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May 15th, 2019

"The dominant color in Lear's court is gold; a porcelain bulldog and lion straddle the throne. These choices, with their whiff of Art Deco, are no doubt topical, though never fully explored: the text, about the dissolution of ancient Britain, doesn't really speak to our current political moment, and that's okay. Not all our theater has to try and solve Trump. If it does, he wins."
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April 4th, 2019

"A 'King Lear' that wholly captures the complexities and contradictions of its title character, a still-roaring lion who refuses to accept that winter has dawned. Gold’s production is at once a clever reflection of a culturally diverse modern world and a renunciation of the way ossified power structures are sustained...Never before has Gold’s vision of Shakespeare seemed as coherent or as inventive...A production that feels timeless in its sweep, yet right of this moment."
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T
April 5th, 2019

"Jackson in the title role. At 82 years old, she does command a stage. She goes about the business of descent into madness efficiently. I cannot say hers is a Lear for the ages because the production is simply not good...'King Lear' is certainly juicy enough to satisfy if the acting rose above the setting. That is not the case...Overall, this production is a sorry mess and cannot be recommended."
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April 5th, 2019

“Gold’s production subtly invokes Trump’s America...Jackson’s performance is one of subdued fury...She creates a quietly terrifying and, even sometimes, spunky Lear...Not all the performances are as crystalline as Jackson’s, but Gold’s emotionally cool production is still scintillating...With contemporary dress and an inclusive approach to casting, the production is invigorating.”
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April 4th, 2019

"Shakespeare has been bastardized and vandalized by director Sam Gold...With no clear focus but pretentiousness by director Sam Gold, throwing everything on stage, including the proverbial kitchen sink, the viewer has to make some sense of the proceedings...All of these are admirable choices, but they create so much distraction that there is no cohesive flow. A viewer loses focus and concentration, because one’s attention keeps changing from one thing to another."
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April 23rd, 2019

“Jackson was great fun, but, really, 'Lear' shouldn't be great fun. I respected and enjoyed her performance, but she didn't touch me...What play was everybody in? Some seemed to be in Shakespeare's actual Lear; some...in a star-turn Lear; some...in a satire of Lear; and still others seemed to be in a college version...This is not the first time I've seen such a distinguished cast end up in such a jambalaya of a classic.”
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April 4th, 2019

"Even in the throes of dementia later in the show, Jackson’s Lear shows no wasted movement, no overly dramatic flourishes. Would that Gold’s production had showed a similar resolve...Gold is more successful by casting Ruth Wilson as both Cordelia and the Fool...Gold’s listless production keeps dragging just when it should be gaining momentum...Only Jackson herself pierces through the unnecessary distractions of this production."
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April 10th, 2019

“Jackson gives a magnificent performance...This is not just a family drama, but a political drama as well, with obvious contemporary reverberations...Several elements of the production distract us from the devastation of that world, by adding distractingly fascinating sign language. But more irritating is the onstage string quartet...This annoyingly cues each emotional high point, and, worse, competes with the speaking voices.”
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W
April 5th, 2019

"Seeing a great work of art elevates the soul. Shakespeare's 'King Lear' is a very familiar and one my favorite's of the Bard's script...Diminutive powerhouse Glenda Jackson plays the great king who rules the stage with fierce but not blustering methods…Watching her unspool and battle against storms both natural and human are delectable. But she plays it straight up despite the gender twist. She is not a Queen Lear but every inch a King as no original language is altered to accommodate."
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A
April 19th, 2019

"This puzzling modern-dress interpretation makes a few half-hearted gestures toward contemporary politics...Jackson presides with cool, untouchable hauteur over the proceedings...Yet as irritated and often baffled as I was by this staging, I was seldom bored. I never got a strong sense that Gold, or anyone involved, has a clear animating idea what the play is about...Jackson made me hear the work’s bitterness and thoroughgoing misanthropy with fresh ears."
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April 16th, 2019

"Gold’s ‘King Lear’ has one saving grace: Its lead, Glenda Jackson...It’s impossible not to find all of this a little heartbreaking; ideally, though, one would find it extremely heartbreaking. But Jackson, acting her heart out and never missing a beat, just isn’t quite able to overcome all the odd pacing and distracting elements of this production.”
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