The hugely anticipated and overly hyped production of “King Lear” at the Goodman Theatre ends up saying little about the title character and more about the director at the top of the program’s title page. Slick, visually bloated and self-indulgent—the second half drags from some ponderous verse speaking—this modern-dress revival is not so much Artistic Director Robert Falls’ twentieth-anniversary production as much as his twentieth-anniversary party, where for $75 dollars you can get a ringside seat to the Bacchanalian festivities. Just don’t expect King Lear to show up. Memorable for all the wrong reasons, here are some of the prurient visuals and eye-popping highlights one can expect to see: pastel colored suits and fur coats for its Euro-trash denizens; “Scarface”-like Mafiosos clutching Uzis; a gratuitous appearance by a Mercedes Benz convertible; a stainless-steel kitchen worthy of an Architectural Digest spread featuring a sauté pan that figures into Gloucester’s famous eye-gouging; sodomy and cunnilingus; a handgun that doubles as a crack pipe; “Road Warrior” costumes and post-apocalyptic sound effects. Buried at the bottom is a valiant but ultimately hopeless attempt by stage and screen actor Stacy Keach to find an interpretation for “Lear” that is as equally impressionable. He starts out promisingly enough, establishing this Lear as a trickster whose “Which of you shall we say doth love us most?” is probably more of a practical joke than anything else, albeit one that turns very sour very quickly. After that I honestly cannot say where his interpretation goes because by the time I was asked to pay attention with my ears—to the heath scenes in which Lear develops his character—my eyes kept waiting for the next clever visual gimmick. Truly disappointing on all the important levels. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
Goodman Theatre, 170 North Dearborn, (312)443-3800. Wed 7:30pm/Thu 1:30 & 7:30 pm/Fri 8pm/Sat 2 & 8pm/Sun 1:30 & 7:30pm. $20-$75. Through Oct 22.