Christopher Lloyd taking on 'King Lear' at Shakespeare & Company

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LENOX — Moviegoers know him as Emmett "Doc" Brown in the "Back to the Future" trilogy. Television viewers know him as "Reverend Jim" on the sitcom "Taxi." This summer, theatergoers will get to know Drama Desk- and Emmy Award-winning actor Christopher Lloyd as King Lear at Shakespeare & Company.

Lloyd will play the monumental title role in Shakespeare's tragedy June 28 through Aug. 2 in the Tina Packer Playhouse in a production directed by Nicole Ricciardi.

The other two Shakespeare plays set for the 2020 summer season are the romantic comedy "Much Ado About Nothing," directed by Kelly Galvin, Aug. 11 through Sept. 6 in the outdoor Roman Garden Theatre; and "The Comedy of Errors," directed by education artist and company member Michael F. Toomey in a 90-minute family-friendly production, July 7-Aug. 8, outdoors in the Dell at The Mount, Edith Wharton's home.

Casting and additional titles for the 2020 summer season — which begins Memorial Day weekend — will be announced after the New Year.

"We're very excited to unveil our Shakespeare titles for our 2020 season," Shakespeare & Company artistic director Allyn Burrows said in a news release.

"'King Lear' is a powerful, resonant, thought-provoking epic, and with Christopher Lloyd at the center of the piece, we're very much looking forward to the journey into this story for the ages. Nicole Ricciardi has directed beautifully for us these past few years and we're eager to see what she brings to this play in this space."

Ricciardi's directing credits at Shakespeare & Comapny include "Time Stands Still," "Creditors," "4000 Miles," "The Taming," "The How and the Why" and "Cassandra Speaks."

"'King Lear' offers a challenging, profound, and, I believe, unparalleled exploration of what it means to be human," Ricciardi said in the Shakespeare & Company-issued news release. "I suspect that the play's examination of power, loyalty, and justice might find echoes in our current socio-political landscape. Above all, I can't wait to see what Christopher Lloyd breathes into Lear — I expect that he will play the role in a way we've never seen before."

The project has its origins during a casual conversation nearly two years ago between Burrows and Lloyd following an Elizabethan evening in New York sponsored by The Lapham Quarterly, a literary magazine established in 2007 by former Harper's Magazine editor Lewis H. Lapham.

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Burrows and members of Shakespeare & Company performed selections from Shakespeare.

"Lloyd, who is Lapham's cousin, also was on the bill that evening," Burrows said during a brief telephone interview from his Lenox office. "We just struck up a conversation."

In the interim, Burrows said, Lloyd paid a couple of visits to Shakespeare & Company's Lenox home "to check out the scene. And we did a table-read of the play. I just liked his take on the play and the role.

"You have to be old enough to play Lear and robust enough to play Lear. I know what a mountain this role is to climb."

Lloyd began his career in theater and has appeared in over 200 plays on and off Broadway, and regional and summer stock productions. He took home an Obie- and a Drama Desk Award for his title-role performance in the 1973 production of Peter Handke's "Kaspar" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music,

Lloyd's film career began in 1975 in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." He has since appeared in over 90 film and television productions, most notably as "Reverend Jim" Ignatowski (1979-1983) on the ABC/NBC comedy series, "Taxi." In 1992 Lloyd made Emmy history when he won Best Dramatic Actor for Disney's "Road to Avonlea." In a category dominated by series regulars, Lloyd was the first actor to win for a guest appearance. The following year, the rules were changed to include a Guest Appearance category.

Single tickets for the 2020 performance season go on sale to donors and groups on Feb. 11; seat and show selection for FLEXpass holders on Feb. 18. Tickets for the general public will be released on Feb. 25.

Meanwhile, Shakespeare & Company's winter season is underway, with the Fall Festival of Shakespeare running Nov. 21-24. Next month the company presents a costumed staged reading of "Sense and Sensibility," Dec. 14 and 15, followed by a Winter Studio Festival of emerging and established playwrights Jan. 18 and 19.

Complete information is available by phone at 413-637-3353 or online at shakespeare.org.

Berkshire Eagle arts editor Jeffrey Borak contributed material to this Shakespeare & Company release.


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