Geoffrey Rush has become the latest star to land the role of King Lear in another new production of William Shakespeare's tragedy. The King's Speech star has signed up for the title role in the play which will by staged by the Sydney Theatre Company in his native Australia next year (15).
Rush appeared in several previous productions of King Lear, but this is the first time he has taken on the title role, following in the footsteps of stars including Frank Langella, John Lithgow, and Simon Russell Beale, who have all played the monarch on stage this year (14).
He tells the Sydney Morning Herald, "An old mate of mine, John Lithgow, is doing it in the park in New York. Simon Russell Beale has done a strong production of it at The National (in London). It's just one of those ones (plays) where it constantly sets up a challenge to an acting company."
Lithuanian actor Donatas Banionis has died at the age of 90. The star suffered a fatal stroke on Thursday (04Sep14), according to multiple reports.
Banionis was best known for his Soviet spy role in 1968's Myortvy Seson, which later inspired Russian president Vladimir Putin to pursue an intelligence career.
He also starred in Soviet releases The Red Tent (1969), King Lear (1971) and Solaris in 1972.
His last film, Fireheart: The Legend of Tadas Blinda, was shot in Lithuania in 2011.
John Lithgow's turn as King Lear in New York has failed to conquer the critics. The new production of the William Shakespeare tragedy opened at the outdoor Delacorte Theatre in Manhattan's Central Park on Tuesday night (05Aug14) with Lithgow in the title role opposite Annette Bening, marking her first New York stage part in more than two decades.
Theatre reviewers mostly praised Lithgow's portrayal of the king's decent into madness, but many were scathing about the production.
Ben Brantley of The New York Times calls the play "stiff-jointed" and "emotionally numb", while the New York Post's Elisabeth Vincentelli gives it just two stars out of a possible five, adding, "The letdown matches the anticipation."
Frank Schek of The Hollywood Reporter writes, "(The production is) devoid of interpretive insight and lacking emotional immediacy... Lithgow here never plumbs the depth of the tortured Lear, staying stubbornly on the surface... (It is a) dutiful but uninspired production, which never scales the heights of Shakespeare's timeless tragedy."
Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal was particularly scathing about the supporting cast, writing, "Annette Bening... is cautious, even bland, as Goneril, while Jessica Hecht's Regan is fussy and insipid. I wouldn't be surprised if Ms. Bening finds her sea legs - she is, after all, a superlative film actress with classical stage training - but Ms. Hecht is miscast, pure and simple."
Variety's Gordon Cox concurs, writing, "There's no bite... to Annette Bening's matronly Goneril and even less poison in Jessica Hecht's oddly giddy Regan."
A number of reviewers also criticised the staging of the show, complaining that the view of Central Park which usually enhances productions at the Delacorte Theatre was cut off by a brick wall in the set.
Veteran actor John Lithgow was left struggling to remember his lines after rain halted an outdoor performance of King Lear in New York City this week (beg21Jul14). The Shrek star is currently appearing in a production of William Shakespeare's tragedy in Central Park, but the play was hit by bad weather in its opening week (beg21Jul14).
One show had to be halted for 45 minutes due to a heavy downpour, and Lithgow, who plays the title role, was left struggling to find his place in the script when the action resumed.
An audience member tells the New York Daily News, "(He said) 'I'm lost'... After some murmuring among the cast, they went back to the beginning of the scene they had been in so he could pick up the thread... The audience was with him the whole way."
Veteran actor John Lithgow was recently subjected to verbal abuse on the streets of New York after a fan took a disliking to the thick beard he is growing for his new stage role as King Lear. The Oscar winner has been grooming his facial hair since March (14) in preparation for the Shakespeare in the Park production in the Big Apple's Central Park, but he admits the bushy white beard hasn't won him many compliments.
During an appearance on America's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Thursday (17Jul14), he said, "It's making me feel nice and old... (but) not everybody likes it.
"If you're a recognisable person, you walk through town with a kind of swagger, but with my beard now... I was crossing a New York street and this guy had just slowed down (in his car), looking for an address or something, so I crossed in front of him, he saw me, he sort of sped up, chased me off the street, rolled down his window and said, 'Why don't you f**king shave?'"
Lithgow was too shocked by the unexpected insult to respond, but he decided to use his TV interview to send a message back to the rude driver.
He explained, "That's why I did (this talk) show, so in case he's watching, I can say, 'The Tonight Show, King Lear, that's why I didn't f**king shave!'"
Lithgow will star opposite Annette Bening in the open-air revival, which begins its limited run on Tuesday (22Jul14), and he can't wait to hit the stage as Shakespeare's tragic royal, adding, "It's been the answer to the question, 'What role would you want to play?' for all these years, and now I'm playing it!"
British rockers Elbow wanted to bring actor Benedict Cumberbatch onstage for a special appearance at Glastonbury festival last weekend (27-29Jul14) but the plan fell through. The band performed at the iconic U.K. music event on Friday (27Jun14), second on the bill to headliners Arcade Fire, and they were lining up a bizarre treat for revellers.
They wanted to bring Sherlock star Cumberbatch onstage to contribute to a heavy rock version of Destiny's Child track Independent Women, but the odd idea was dropped when the actor revealed he would not be available on the day.
Frontman Guy Garvey tells Mojo magazine, "(We wanted to do) a really heavy Deep Purple-style version of Destiny's Child's Independent Women... You know in the middle of the song, there's that list of everything that Beyonce bought and owned? We were going to have him ranting it in a kind of King Lear fashion."
Actress Ruby Dee has died at the age of 91. The star passed away of natural causes on Wednesday (11Jun14) in New Rochelle, New York.
Dee began her career in the musical drama That Man of Mine and played American baseball player Jackie Robinson's wife in The Jackie Robinson Story.
Other notable film appearances for Dee included A Raisin in the Sun, Jungle Fever, Do the Right Thing and American Gangster, for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
For her many appearances on the small screen, the actress was lauded with several Emmy Awards nominations, including nods for 1979's Roots: The Next Generation, Little Bill and Decoration Day, for which she won the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie trophy.
Dee was also known for her stints in theatre plays including A Raisin in the Sun, Hamlet and King Lear.
Her other awards include Screen Actors Guild awards for Lifetime Achievement and Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role for American Gangster, and a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for With Ossie And Ruby: In This Life Together.
Paying tribute to Dee, Screen Actors Guild president Ken Howard says, "Ruby Dee was truly one of a kind. She was a woman who believed deeply in fairness, a conviction that motivated her lifelong efforts to advance civil rights.
"The acting community - and the world - is a poorer place for her loss."
Dee was also known for her activism, and, in 2005, she received the National Civil Rights Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Freedom award alongside her late husband, Ossie Davis.
Actress Lee Chamberlin has lost her fight with cancer at the age of 76. The star, who had been living in Paris, France, passed away on 25 May (14) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, while visiting her son Matthew.
Born Alverta La Pallo, Chamberlin rose to fame in 1971 as an original cast member of educational children's show The Electric Company, on which she co-starred with Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno and a young Morgan Freeman.
Chamberlin went on to work on the stage, appearing in a 1973 production of Shakespeare's King Lear in New York's Central Park, opposite James Earl Jones as the title character, and she also carved out a career in film, with credits in Sidney Poitier's 1970s movies Uptown Saturday Night and Let's Do It Again.
Her other roles included parts on TV comedy series Diff'rent Strokes, police drama Paris and U.S. soap opera All My Children, in which she played Pat Baxter from 1983 to 1995.
Actress Annette Bening is set to make a return to the New York stage after almost 26 years. The American Beauty star has been cast as the villainous Goneril in the Shakespeare in the Park production of King Lear this summer (14), opposite John Lithgow.
After years of starring in motion pictures, the project marks Bening's return to the New York theatre scene for the first time since her Tony Award-nominated role in 1988's Coastal Disturbances.
Joining Bening and Lithgow in the open-air production are Jessica Hecht and Jessica Collins. The revival runs from 22 July to 17 August (14).
They say it's the golden era of TV – what with dramas like Mad Men and Homeland on the air (not to mention the recently dearly departed Breaking Bad), it's hard to argue with fact. But even with stiff competition from more recent critical darlings, Slings and Arrows (off the air for almost ten years now) is still one of the best TV shows I've ever seen.
Helmed by unstable artistic director Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross), ghost (yes, ghost) Oliver Wells (Stephen Ouimette), and resident diva Ellen Fanshaw (Martha Burns), the performances on this show are superb. Oh, and series writers Mark McKinney and Susan Coyne are equally blessed in acting gifts as they are in writing gifts (lucky bastards). You'll also want to look out for pre-fame Rachel McAdams taking her turn as Ophelia, Sarah Polley figuratively killin' it as Cordelia, and William Hutt literally killin' it as Lear.
Full of theater archetypes that you know and love/hate – the "ingénue" who chooses to play Ophelia as if she's stoned, the constantly harangued stage manager, and Darren Nichols, who perfectly embodies every pretentious douchebag director you ever saw (down to the ratty scarves and tinted, black-framed glasses) – Slings and Arrows is (probably literally) a laugh a minute.
And that's not even taking into account the way it deftly adapts some of Shakespeare's most loved plays: season one tackles Hamlet (cheer up, you melancholy Dane!), season two takes on the Scottish play, and the final season does King Lear (and no Lear is complete without a heroin-shooting lead actor, right?). The original tagline for the show was, "The real show is backstage," and it lives up that statement. The drama of the actors and production team mirrors, transforms – and dare I say, elevates? – Shakespeare's magic.
This show has an inherent beauty (not to mention a wonderful sense of humor) that everyone will be able to respond to. So queue up that Netflix Instant Watch!