Like Basil Twist's Dogugaeshu, Josef Nadj and Miquel Barceló's Paso Doble (at St. Ann's Warehouse this weekend) tends to be filed under Dance. Both pieces, however don't resemble anything usually associated with dance. There are no humans on stage in Dogugaeshu, and the two men in Paso Doble spend the entire time sculpting clay. In both cases, the set becomes the show, and vice versa. In Paso Doble, the concept is taken to its logical conclusion as art literally ends up eating up/absorbing its makers. A brilliant conceptual move there.
In contrast, the much-publicized King Lear at BAM was completely lacking in the concept department. I enjoyed much of the acting, and Ian McKellen hit all the grace notes, especially in the second half, but Trevor Nunn's staging was stunning in its dullness—with special mention going to his use of music, which was full-on cheese. The storm scene was particularly underwhelming, with a light mist gently falling the center of the stage. On the plus side, the place seemed to be packed with a lot of Harvey Theater newbies; I can only hope they will be return customers and try out some of the more daring offering BAM has lined up in the Next Wave.
My favorite "traditional" Lear remains Ingmar Bergman's version, seen in Paris in the mid-1980s, with Akira Kurosawa's Japan-set Ran (with three sons instead of three daughters) topping the film adaptations. When it comes to Euro-directors dynamiting a classic, Jan Lauwers' Lear, culminating in an apocalyptic, deafening finale, and seen at BAM at few years ago, is hard to top. That show actually got the most hostile reception of anything I've ever seen at BAM—two thirds of the audience were gone by the end, with many patrons expressing their rage by departing very noisily. I can't say I have any idea of what was going on much of the time, but I loved the overall chaos—precisely choreographed and sound-designed, of course. Much to its credit, BAM invited Lauwers back and he returned with the amazing Isabella's Room, which replaced shock value with intelligent emotion and made lifelong converts out of those lucky enough to see it.