A FOOL, HIS KING AND THE MADNESS THAT ENGULFS THEM
By BEN BRANTLEY
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Bill Irwin pops up like a daffodil in February amid the gray slush of the Public Theater’s “King Lear,” which opened on Tuesday night, starring Sam Waterston and directed by James Macdonald. The image of a single bright flower in a bleak landscape comes to mind not just because Mr. Irwin is wearing a blazing yellow Pierrot outfit.
Portraying (as you may have surmised) Lear’s Fool, Mr. Irwin is full of fresh sap, and he inspires spring-like hopes. Not for his doomed character, of course, but for the possibility of an enlightening new interpretation of a well-worn character. As an actor deeply steeped in the traditions of clowns, according to both the commedia dell’arte and Samuel Beckett, Mr. Irwin delivers on that promise.