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The Rocker at Raleigh Little Theater

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Another Lear? Didn't Playmakers just exhaust the possibilities--or the marketplace at least--with their double-version stand?

Trust me, the reason we aren't running from anything remotely resembling the fabled January King Lear Overdose is because Adrienne Pender's modern reconsideration, The Rocker, is its own work in its own right. The script (which we pored through last week) finds new insights in old themes--which is more than may be said of one of our recent shipyard Shakespeares.

Three adult sisters struggle to deal with an emotionally distant and fiercely independent father--one who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. "His initial question isn't 'How much do you love me?'" Pender notes. "It's 'Have I been a good parent?', which I think a lot of people can identify with."

Still, the question marks the father's last attempt to manipulate his daughters through money, with a pre-death bequest in the millions of dollars. It won't have the outcome he imagines.

Since Pender wisely decides against duplicating plot points on a one-to-one basis, she's free to trace the individual arcs in this dysfunctional family backward as well as forward. As a result, we see how each daughter--and their surviving parent--got to be the people that we meet. In so doing, Pender humanizes the sisters and counters the temptation to make anyone an easy villain. This choice deepens the complexity of their common dilemma.

Pender's text only falters briefly at the end, when it tries to synopsize some characters' true motivations through realizations remembered later, instead of letting us be present at the moment those realizations actually occur. This sole reservation doesn't negate the accomplishments achieved to that point. That's why, even after two January Lears, I'm actually looking forward to this February version at Theater in the Park.

Feb. 13 & 14, 19-21, 26-28, 8 pm; Feb. 22 & 29, 3 pm: Theater in the Park, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh. 831-6058. $18, $12 students, seniors. Feb. 19 performance is audio described.

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