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Much ado about Old Globe Theatre's Shakespeare festival By Maria Patrice Amon | Fri, Jul 30 2010 12:34 AM

This summer’s Shakespeare Festival centers on the theme of madness in its many iterations, from lovesickness to parenthood.

“The Madness of George III” presents the historical temporary madness of the British King George III, the infamous tyrant against whom the American Colonies revolted. The play is poignantly sensitive and surprisingly funny.

“The Madness of George III” is the jewel of the festival. It is a must see, if you can only see one of the three festival shows, make it “The Madness of George III.” If you are able to see all three shows, I recommend watching “The Madness of George III” first if you are a little unsure about spending a full evening with an ancient playwright as the language of George is easily understood. However; if you relish dessert after a savory meal then save “The Madness of George III” for last.

The festival’s second production, Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” seems to just miss the mark. The Old Globe’s production attempts to make the archaic story of the “breaking-in” of a strong-willed woman, Katherine, more palatable to modern audiences by shaping the character of Petruchio. Petruchio’s early lines justifying his actions on the basis of Katherine’s large dowry are cut and the role is played to emphasize a genuine affection for Kate. While this is an interesting experiment in modernization, the test fails in the second act as Petruchio’s misogyny and domineering control over “his womanly property” disappointingly seeps back into the production.

“King Lear,” the third play of the festival, is a tragedy that fits nicely between the two other shows. “King Lear” is the story of a king with three daughters. Nearing his retirement, he selfishly calls his daughters to proclaim his greatness to receive their inheritances only to hear his two self-interested daughters loudly declare their admiration while his favorite daughter Cordelia stays quiet as an attempt to prove her more genuine love for him. He disinherits Cordelia and then falls victim to the avarice and greed of his other daughters. A king without a kingdom, he is forced to wander the countryside and falls into pitiable madness and forced to witness the death of his favorite daughter. The story of “King Lear” is heart-wrenchingly beautiful and a must for all fathers.

“The Madness of George III,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” and “King Lear” are playing in Lowell Davies Festival Theatre at the Old Globe in Balboa Park with performances through late September. Tickets are available at (619) 23-GLOBE, at www.TheOldGlobe.org, or at the theater box office with special discount $20 for patrons under 30.

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