Actresses shine in misfired KU play

Friday, May 3, 2002

The final production in Kansas University's William Inge Memorial Theatre Series attempts to explore the power that myths and passed-down stories have over the patriarchal power structure of a family.

"Lear's Daughters," however, seems to miss the mark. The characters never really connect with the audience, and the dialogue seems trite at times.

"Lear's Daughters," written by Elaine Feinstein and the Women's Theatre Group and directed by Julie Little Thunder, opened Thursday night to a small audience in Murphy Hall's Inge Theatre.

The one-act, 70-minute play unfolds with the help of the Fool (Gwethalyn Williams), who vacillates between being narrator and portraying King Lear and his queen, and the Nurse (Sarah Elizabeth Homan), whose tales of the daughters' upbringing and their mother's death help to flesh out the action on-stage.

Psychologically, the daughters represent the family dynamic of many dysfunctional families: Goneril (Averyn Mackey), the eldest, is the emotionally wounded hero; Regan (Caitlin McDonald), the middle child, feels like an outsider and breaks the rules by getting pregnant; and Cordelia (Julia Hardin), the youngest, wins her daddy's heart by never growing up. While a valid premise for a play, Feinstein's use of the Fool and large chalkboard-type slates to introduce scenes detracts rather than adds to the production's dramatic power.

Nonetheless, the actresses turned in fine performances. Homan is particularly good when she tells the story of the Pied Piper to the Fool and when she reacts to being turned out by King Lear after years of taking care of his family.

"Lear's Daughters" will continue at 7:30 p.m. today-Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday in Inge Theatre.