Many A True Word Is Spoken in Cincy Shakes’ Season Opener “King Lear”

And what is there to say of Hopkins as the titular character? I’ll say it simply: it’s good to be king - and it’s even better when it’s Jim Hopkins. Bravo, Sir.

Review by Katrina Reynolds, LCT

 It’s the age-old story: king decides to abdicate, king splits his kingdom according to the strength of the declarations of love from his three daughters, chaos ensues. It is with the tragedy “King Lear” that Cincinnati Shakespeare Company opens its 2022-2023 season. 

It is not surprising this show boasts a creative team of many talented artists. The program states this particular production is set in a contemporary landscape (the clever use of smart phones and referring to car horns as “trumpets” help to bring that home); however, there seems to be confusion in just which decade is actually being presented to the audience. The impressive set, primarily credited to Scenic Designer Justen N. Locke, gives off a “1980s corporate vibe” (a quote borrowed from a nearby patron) while costumes designed by Rainy Edwards seemed to suggest a time period more into the 1990s. 

Lighting Design by Andrew J. Hungerford and Sound & Projections Design by Doug Borntrager enhance the beauty of the set and add some intriguing layers to both suggesting changes of location and mood of said scenes. These elements complement the on-stage action and aesthetic seamlessly. 

Director Brian Isaac Phillips pulls out the usual stops in making Shakespeare interesting and engaging to those who might not usually deem it so. While I personally loved the musical choices throughout the production (incorporating a Bowie/Reznor collab is ALWAYS in good taste), the dance number at the top of the show did seem rather unnecessary. Beyond that, pacing is steady. Phillips’ choice to use modern-day touches such as staging a scene as a press conference and having the actors pause for “photo ops” is one of things which puts a brand on his directing–and effectively so.

Standout performance recognition goes to Dathan Hooper as Gloucester. Hooper’s interpretation and delivery of the age-old text is smart, fresh, and rife with relatable sensibilities. Yours truly could not take her eyes off him. Also of particular note is CSC newcomer Matt Davies (Kent). Davies’ impeccable dialects and spot-on performance are impressive to say the least. Adam Tran (Duke of Albany) impresses during his CSC debut with excellent delivery as well as his talent for the perfect facial expression. 

He also handles rope quite nicely.

The powerhouse trio of artists who play Lear’s daughters–Kelly Mengelkoch as Goneril, Miranda McGee as Regan, and Candice Handy (pictured) as Cordelia–do not disappoint. Each offers a diverse and multi-faceted performance with distinctive shining moments with (or against) Jim Hopkins’ Lear.

And what is there to say of Hopkins as the titular character? I’ll say it simply: it’s good to be king – and it’s even better when it’s Jim Hopkins. Bravo, Sir.

“The Cast of King Lear” including Candice Handy as Cordelia.
Photo by Mikki Schaffner 

This reviewer would be remiss not to add her own congratulations to Brian Isaac Phillips who was acknowledged by the City of Cincinnati for 20 years of service to CSC. It was a lovely moment to see Phillips, whose family looked on proudly, give in to the emotions this nod to his achievements elicited. Best wishes to another 20 years at the helm!

“King Lear” will be playing at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company through October 1st. 

Tickets can be purchased at

Katrina “Kat” Reynolds is a local performing artist and directress. She serves as the copy editor for Rob Bucher’s Behind The Curtain Cincinnati. Her company, Harley Quinn Studios, produces old-timey radio show content and provides the place “where the voices in your head come to play”.

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