I saw "Lear" at The Vortex last night. I wasn't sure what to expect. Being busy and all, I had missed most of the pre-production buzz, even though I have several friends in the cast. When I first saw the publicity for it on Facebook, I squinted at the picture and thought, "That looks like Jenny!" A closer perusal assured me that it was, indeed Jennifer Underwood in the title role. I knew, right away, that I could not miss this show.
Dearly Beloved, you should not miss it, either. There has been a lot of gender-bending in productions of Shakespeare recently, including in Sam Bass's "The Tempest Project," but I had never even considered the possibility of a woman being able to play Lear. If I had, Jennifer Underwood is the name that would have come to mind. Jenny is a powerful actor and has made this awesome role her own. From her queenly demeanor at the beginning, through her gradual disillusionment and eventual breakdown into madness and unbearable pain, Jennifer Underwood owns this role. At the first intermission, I didn't know what to think. By the second, I was in love, and by the end of the show, I was speechless. You know that (for me) is pretty amazing!
But Jenny is not alone. There is a brilliant ensemble on the Vortex stage. I can't mention everyone by name (I got so excited that I left my program behind), but Micah Goodding as Edward was excellent. Andrea' Smith as Goneril, Toby Minor as her husband, Trey Deason in several roles...the entire cast is as tight as it can be.
There is a lot of Shakespeare up and running in Austin right now. The Vortex's "Lear" is in the category of "must see."
So why are you still reading? Make reservations. Buy tickets. Go.