Step backstage with the cast to explore what is real, imaginary and how can we benefit from both. While truly an odd pair visits the asylum, Forrest studies for the role of a lifetime, Cornelia finds a new way to communicate with her father and reconcile with her father's impending death, while Benjamin regains his vibrancy and finds a path towards ultimate resolution. The characters present effective contrasts, challenging the actors.
The year is 1827 and the rising young Shakespearean actor Edwin Forrest is preparing to play King Lear when a young woman interrupts him with a proposal: Meet the perfect Lear, her father. If Edwin follows this stranger is it an act of kindness, lunacy, or an actors dream come true. What is the price of perfection?
Cornelia Lamb – A Quaker woman who supervises the Friends Asylum
Edwin Forrest – The rising young Shakespearean actor, twenty-one years old, who is preparing for his production of King Lear.
Benjamin Lamb – Cornelia's father, a former schoolteacher, now a patient at Friends Asylum, who believes he is King Lear.
Walnut St. Theatre/Friends Asylum, Philadelphia/Bowery Theatre, NYC
Spring, Summer and Winter, 1827
2007 – Dobama Theatre (FusionFest ’07) Cleveland Ohio
2006 - The Cleveland Play House, Next Stage Festival of New Play Readings
Every once in a while a theatre-goer sees a play and a performance so stunning that the only word that describes it is mesmerizing. That is the case with Dobama Theatre’s world premiere production of Sandra Perlman’s Lunacy. Perlman, a Cleveland playwright, who is a member of the Cleveland Play House’s Playwright’s Unit, and a professor of play writing at Case Western University, has penned a short one and a-half hour play (including a brief intermission), which grabs and holds the audience’s attention. This is a fine script!
Perlman is fortunate that director Mark Alan Gordon has a clear grasp of the necessary mood and pacing the script needs, and a cast that gives flawless performances. With a lesser production, the excellence of the script might not come through as strongly as it does.
Lunacy takes place in 1827, but its implications are timeless. As written, it concerns Edwin Forrest, a twenty-one year old rising star. His acting specialty is Shakespeare. As he is rehearsing King Lear, Cornelia Lamb, a young Quaker woman, enters the theatre. As a result of her challenge, Forrest becomes wrapped up in the mystery of why Benjamin, Cornelia’s father, not only thinks he is, but is the perfect Lear.
Questions abound. What makes for a perfect performance of a fictional character? Who is crazy, the person who attempts to portray something he is not, or someone who believes and feels that he is the character? What can we learn about reality from those who are, in fact, lunatics? Is our role in life to seek out the perfect role and then live it until we complete the very last line of the character’s play?
Michael Regnier gives a career high performance as Benjamin Lamb. He doesn’t perform Benjamin, Regnier is Benjamin, and, therefore, the perfect Lear. This is a mind blowing enactment. Wow!!! I only wish I could experience Regnier doing a full-length production of King Lear.
Dan Hammond (Edwin) is Regnier’s near match as an actor. Edwin, early in the play, is trying to learn Lear’s lines. He fights to make the character both real and flawless. As the play develops, so does Edwin’s understanding of Lear. Hammond is wonderful while allowing us to experience his awakening to what a real character development is all about. Another wow!
The third wow? Bernadette Clemens’ sensitive portrayal of Cornelia, Benjamin’s daughter. She gives nuance and texture to the role, thus creating a real person who experiences rather than acts feelings.
Director Mark Alan Gordon has created a near-perfect theatrical image. He is sensitive to the characters needs to underplay certain segments and rant in others. He has masterfully worked with the actors to key ideas, and correctly pace scenes.
Capsule judgment: Lunacy has to be ranked near the very top of shows in this area’s local season of fine productions (Equus at Beck, Fat Pig at the Bang and the Clatter, The Price at Ensemble, Hay Fever'' at GLTF.) Lunacy is a go-see, a must-see, and an absolutely don’t miss!''
Roy Berko (2007)
"Lunacy," by Northeast Ohio writer Sandra Perlman, might at first glance appear to be just a clever riff on Shakespeare's "King Lear." But Perlman is a smarter and braver writer than that.
She takes us on a haunting exploration of not only insanity and "Lear," but also the power of the family to comfort, that moment of life called death to unite, and -- ultimately -- the power of the theater to heal.
… packs layer upon layer of richness into 80 compact, funny and emotionally wringing minutes.
So many new plays seem designed to make the theater less accessible to today's audiences. This one, happily and profoundly, invites us all backstage, where the theater lives and our moments of lunacy await the waxing of the moon.
Dobama's 'Lunacy' is a crazy-good premiere.
photo credit: Meyerangelo; Dobama Theatre
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