apropos of nothing

Ian McKellen Strips Down in ‘King Lear’

Photo: iStockphoto

Perhaps fall 2007 truly is the Season of the Wang! The front page of “Arts & Leisure” today screams “Lear Stripped Bare,” above a mixed-positive review of the BAM productions of King Lear and The Seagull, both starring Ian McKellen. McKellen appears in the altogether in Trevor Nunn’s production of Lear, and according to Ben Brantley, at least, the scene is dramatically thrilling and not at all gratuitous:

te>By the way, you’ve probably heard that Mr. McKellen strips down in the heath scene to the altogether. Before you roll your eyes over what sounds like another instance of obligatory and superfluous nudity, you should know that for most of his (brief) moment of total exposure, Lear’s head is hidden by his shirt.

In other words, what you see might be a torso on a mortuary slab, a human being reduced to what everyone is, “unaccommodated man,” as the play has it. It’s a relief when Mr. McKellen’s head re-emerges; Lear, even in his derangement, is Lear again. But from that moment on, we are achingly aware that he is us, too.

“A torso on a mortuary slab”? Yikes, that’s not sexy at all. And Brantley’s review is actually fairly critical of everything in the production that isn’t Ian McKellen, or Ian McKellen’s junk. The Season of the Wang continues!

Lear Stripped Bare [NYT]

Ian McKellen Strips Down in ‘King Lear’