In an abandoned classroom, three gawky nerds mull over the meanings of King Lear. They sift through Shakespeare lore, intermittently returning to their favorite scene from his tragic masterpiece, in which the monarch—fleeing the play’s infamous storm—imagines placing his cruel daughters on trial, decrying the universe’s paucity of justice. Later, the trio performs a metatheatrical version where first Lear’s sanity is on trial, then Shakespeare himself.
If this sounds like the recipe for a quirky, evocative riff on a towering classic, that’s because it could have been. The real tragedy of Storm Still is that its creators—Rick Burkhardt, Andy Gricevich, and Ryan Higgins—put rich material to such theatrically impoverished use. Sloshing around in Shakespeare’s poetry, the writer-performers spew their copious research everywhere. The endless pontificating crowds out spectators’ own insights by over-explaining every idea into aggravating oblivion.
Other scenarios include a doctor’s office, where performers belabor the medical and metaphorical meanings of “catharsis”; a pedantic “interview” with an antique hardcover copy of Lear; and a surprising number of repulsive jokes about bodily excretions. At one point, the “doctor” helps the actor playing Lear “vomit” up cascades of animal crackers. “We got it out! Feel better?” exclaims the physician. But those of us watching feel so much worse.