At the outset of “Lear,” now receiving an austerely lunatic West Coast premiere at City Garage, a projected PBS-style host drolly relates the narrative of William Shakespeare’s immortal tragedy, up to Lear’s banishment and Gloucester’s blinding.
“Our show begins roughly at this point in the story,” the host (Trace Taylor) continues. “Nothing else that happens in Shakespeare’s text is necessarily relevant to what you are about to see.” This, as it turns out, is a considerable understatement.
As such, it’s a natural fit for ever-adventurous City Garage. This second installment in the company’s tripartite “The Winter of Our Discontent: Shakespeare in the Digital Age” project doesn’t entirely solve the problems of avant-garde iconoclast Lee’s collage-like text, but it’s nonetheless intriguing.
Kristina Drager makes an angular, dryly understated Goneril, whose deliberately contemporary interaction with Kat Johnston’s curt, oddly sympathetic Regan and Nili Rain Segal’s insanely grinning, perversely funny Cordelia typifies the whole.
They neatly respond to the fey/savage interplay of Andrew Loviska’s vivid Edgar, who recalls the young James Woods, and Anthony M. Sanazzaro’s hilariously petulant Edmund, his late-inning reappearance as a beloved “Sesame Street” character perhaps Lee’s riskiest twist.
At that, “Lear” still flirts with incoherence, not really earning its heartfelt final paternal salute, and it certainly won’t be for all tastes. Devotees of its author and this cutting-edge company should flock.
Where: City Garage, Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Building T1, Santa Monica
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 13.
Info: (310) 453-09939 or www.citygarage.org
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
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