Emperor Has No Clothes

John Daly's pants just get better and better
John Daly's pants just get better and better
Today I announced that a new parochial vicar will arrive at our parish on August 8. After Mass, I received the greatest compliment I have ever gotten:

“Father, we will miss your homilies and your cufflinks.”

…The Emperor who has no clothes is the Washington Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Such emperors are always surrounded by toadies. In this case, the Washington Post, the City Paper, and the Washingtonian‘s one-time critic are among the cheer-leading toadies.

I was able to see King Lear at the Harman Center through the gracious generosity of a friend, and I am grateful for his kindness.

wstc king learWe have been down this road before. The Shakespeare-Theatre-Company production of Twelfth Night turned out to be painfully “gimmick-ridden,” and utterly unsatisfying for this “Shakespeare fundamentalist.”

The problem is: Their production of King Lear is laden with more gimmicks than twelve Twelfth Nights. And all of the gimmicks in this production of King Lear are gross with a capital G.

Gross beyond the point of gratuity. Gross beyond the point of abysmal taste. Gross to the point of embarrassment.


I have mentioned that King Lear is my favorite. The play touches some of the most profound matters: The difference between good sense and madness, the underpinnings of human nature, the evil of ingratitude.

Roseland BallroomEvery character is exquisitely interesting. The opening scene has more drama than most centuries of history. Macaulay Culkin could read the text of King Lear into a tape recorder by himself, and I would love listening to every second of it.

But Lear as Tito of communist-era Yugoslavia? Greek wedding dances in the storm scene? Oswald on a skateboard? The whole play as an anti-war statement? King Lear is many things–more things than we mere mortals can say–but an anti-war statement it is not.

The Washington Theatre Company production of King Lear is the work of a twisted adolescent mind.

It begs the question: Shouldn’t a priest be able to watch a performance of Shakespeare without being so embarrassed that he feels obliged to leave?

…While we are on the subject of Shakespeare, the new Bests are a Shakespeare special edition. These old Bests are retired:

Best early-80’s television character: Bruce Willis’ David Addison on Moonlighting

tomato basilBest restaurant soup:
Tomato Basil at La Madeleine

Best girlie Shakespeare play:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Best museum in Fairfax County:
Udvar-Hazy Center

Best Shakespearian soliloquy about human nature:
Hamlet (Act II, Scene 1)

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,
what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me.

frank ernest

2 thoughts on “Emperor Has No Clothes

  1. Macaulay Culkin reading Shakespeare in a manner that can impress the good Preacher? It had never occurred to me, who am quite unlettered in matters such as this, that MC would have talent of this caliber. Since, however, the Preacher is a erudite assessor of all things Shakespearean, I assent to this proposition on the authority of the Preacher himself, who would neither deceive nor be deceived on this point, as on so many others!

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