By Kevin Zimmerman
At the end of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” with most of the cast lying dead on the floor, Horatio bids the title character farewell.
“Good night sweet prince,” Horatio says. “And flight of angels sing thee to they rest!”
In Titan Theatre Co.’s version of the Bard’s greatest works — one of the first it ever staged — Horatio’s lament was followed by the clamor of restaurant patrons ordering burritos next door at The Creek & The Cave in Long Island City.
“That’s when I knew it was time to move,” Lenny Banovez, Titan’s creative director, said. “We started at the Creek, then moved to the Secret (Theatre). Everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve outgrown the space.”
Well, it’s moving day once again for Titan as the troupe heads deeper into the borough to its new home at the Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, where it opens its latest production, “King Lear,” next week.
Audience members who may not be familiar with Titan’s work should realize its “King Lear” will most likely be vastly different than any they have seen before, including the multiple versions that have played the city this year alone.
Titan’s most recent show, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” involved cast members pulling the name of a character out of a hat at the start of each performance to determine which role they would play that evening.
The show, a huge hit with audiences and critics at the Secret Theatre, is being prepped for a move to an Off-Broadway house later this year.
And just like he did with that show, Banovez has cropped “King Lear” down to a more manageable — for both the cast and audience — two-hour production without compromising Shakespeare’s vision.
It’s one of the reasons Broadway veteran Terry Layman, who plays Lear, is returning for his third Titan Theatre play.
“What intrigues me, what I like about Titan, is they take the classics and distill them down to their most aromatic essence,” Layman said. “They are deliberate cuts. That doesn’t mean you don’t get the depth. The language is all still there.”
What also remains is the story of a father, Lear, who decides to divide his estate between his three daughters, Goneril, Regan and Cordella, based on who loves him the most. After Goneril and Regan flatter their father he opts to split the estate between his two eldest offspring, leaving Cordella, who truly loves the man, with nothing.
Naturally, this being Shakespeare, Lear’s decision causes him to have a nervous breakdown while Cordella struggles with the fact that the father she loves disowns her.
Titan Theatre Group member Laura Frye portrays Regan, Lear’s middle daughter, in what she calls her favorite of all of Shakespeare’s plays.
“Not much has changed in the psychology,” Frye said. “He is dealing with issues that are interesting to watch play out. These are decisions that have been made based on feelings.”
And these choices and actions continue to happen to this day, Layman said.
“The examination of property and power and the love of a family transcends those of royalty,” Layman said. “There is a universality to it. Shakespeare invented the idea of what it is to be human.”
Banovez and Frye, his wife, started the Titan Theatre Group in 2007 as a way to produce classical works with a modern twist. The earliest shows — first staged in 2009 — included “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “Love’s Labour Lost.” Each play included classically trained actors in modern dress, as well as Banovez’s editing touch, which renders complicated plays more accessible.
“The story guides me,” Banovez said. “I know the story I want to tell and how we get there — well, the play’s the thing — we all get there through a collaboration. All 23 people come together.”
Although there are 23 actors in “King Lear,” most of the performers come from the 15 or so core members who do more for the company than just act. These multitasking members help with fund-raising and social media, what Banovez refers to as helping to grow the company.
“It’s great to work as an ensemble,” Tristan Colton, who plays Edmund in “King Lear,” said. “We know how each other works and we’re coming in with no inhibitions.”
Of course, this time the group is headed into a different space and will need to figure out how to make it work in a new home.
Queens Theatre’s Managing Director Taryn Sacramone would like to see the group settle in for a long stay.
“It is my hope this is the beginning of a great partnership,” Sacramone said. “They are wonderful artists. They are great, passionate, smart and talented people. They are exactly the kind of company that I would like to see succeed.”
Contact news editor Kevin Zimmerman at (718) 260-4541 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you Go
Titan Theatre Co.’s “King Lear”
When: April 25 — May 11
Where: Queens Theatre, 14 United Nations Ave. South, Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Contact: (718) 760-0064