The Play

Constructed as a minimalist retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear, the piece functions as a collage with lines from King Lear, Twelfth Night, the Book of Job, nursery rhymes, and other found texts held together with the glue of clowning, music and creative design. This new play confronts the question of what happens to our parents after they slip beyond our care examining what old age means with the advent of technology able to sustain the body longer than the mind was designed to endure. Growing old is part of the human condition and Laer's Last Prayer celebrates its journey through a lyrical staging filled with laughter, frustration, confusion, and love.

Trapped in the hovel of his mind, Lær (inspired as a combination of King Lear and Job from the Bible) must come to terms with the deterioration of his body as he faces his mortality. The world has turned into a desolate wasteland where Lær, his fool Jack, and Dr. Kent are stranded together. With rations diminishing, Jack and Dr. Kent struggle to care for the aging Lær who is now confined to a wheel chair. As he slips further and further into the recesses of his mind he becomes increasingly difficult and angry. In his last throes of desperation, he stands to deliver King Lear’s famous “Blow winds and crack your cheeks” speech in an attempt to transcend beyond his situation; but instead he forgets his words. He is left with nothing – not even his fool – and in this emptiness he finally understands; there are things in life you have no control over. Rather than fighting against this, he gives in and gives himself over to a higher power; he kneels and prays for the wretched of the earth hoping to gain some favor through humility. He retreats to his chair making a leap of faith as to what will come next and prepares for the cycle to repeat itself.

Between cycles, Jack leaves the hovel and comes across Jill, Lær's daughter modeled after the idea of putting the Fool and Cordelia on stage at the same time. After they exchange banter in the form of nursery rhymes, they begin to reminisce about their childhood and their father, Lær. Their memories soon turn their thoughts toward the reality of the suffering old man and Jack stands to leave and to resume his caretaking duties for Lær. Jill begs him to allow her to help but Jack explains it is his burden to take care of the old man now and Jill’s to take care of him in the next life.

Jack returns to the hovel to find that Lær’s mental state has further deteriorated. The old man is muttering and misquoting, talking to himself and barely aware of Jack or Dr. Kent as the scene replays itself out. This time around, instead of repeating the scene again, Jack makes the decision that he can no longer care for Lær. Instead of rebooting the cycle, Jack makes the final preparations and hands Lær over to Jill’s caring spirit who will guide their father to the afterlife. Unburdened Jack is free to go live the rest of his life.

Photos courtesy of Carl Morrison.