It finally happened. A Broadway show so unbelievably bad I didn't bother to stay for curtain. I feel like I need to clarify. There are plenty of shows I haven't liked. Waitress was not for me, My Fair Lady has aged terribly, and the best I can say for the Bands Visit is "it was fine". But all of those shows deserve some basic level of respect.
This production of King Lear was an absolute trainwreck. We're talking, takes-itself-too-seriously-but-is-campier-than-monty-python bad. As this show took itself too seriously, I'm going to do the opposite.
Let's talk set. The show opens and we're looking at a golden Trump Tower style dining room. For some reason there's a ceramic lion and a ceramic dog under the table. This is fine, it's all fine. In fact at this point we just take it at face value. This is one of Shakespeare's most important works.
Something happens with his daughters. I later read the cliffs notes but let's stick to what I saw. One of his daughters inexplicably has a thick Scottish accent. No one else on stage has any accents. I am confused.
There is a man on stage performing sign language but facing the side as opposed to the audience. I am again confused, but glad that this show is trying to be inclusive of the deaf community. Scenes shift and the signing man disappears, I now wonder how the hell I'm supposed to follow this show if I'm deaf.
Much later I realize that one of the actors is deaf. This is great, we're being inclusive. Except his signing surrogate is occasionally halfway across the stage reciting lines for him. I think there was a point to it, but I'm not sure. This man may have also been playing a secondary role. Occasionally he seemed to have his own lines independent of his companion. I am even more confused.
As the show is going on, there's a string quartet in the background. The musicians are dressed in black tie. During the opening scene this makes perfect sense, they're fitting with the theme. As the show starts to descend into madness, I'm confused what this quartet is doing walking around a war zone.
Somewhere around Act 3 I finally realize "it's not that I'm having trouble following Shakespeare, the show is just bad."
Intermission comes. I take this opportunity to read the cliffs notes to figure out what the hell I just saw. I am not at all convinced what I saw on stage is the same thing the internet tells me happened.
Many people run to the bathroom. After all, they've been watching this thing for two hours. Intermission ends. A quarter of the audience hasn't bothered to come back. I keep hearing seats rustling, people are either restless or just leaving.
I continue to watch the show. At this point I start laughing at the absurdity of all of this and think about what I want to order for dinner when I get home. I've decided to order sushi.
The show continues, I have completely given up paying attention. Now I'm just trying my best not to be rude. The show is supposed to end sometime around 10:30 I keep checking my watch: 9:45, 9:46, 9:47. Miraculously, it becomes 10:10. I finally call it.
As I'm leaving, I see a handful of other people leaving as well. Well, we tried.
I immediately catch a cab. I order sushi from the cab.
It's unfortunate this show was so bad because it has the potential to scare off people from so many things: Shakespeare, marathon theater, inclusive casting.
Let's just call this one a disaster and move on? KTHX.