A new staging of 'King Lear' is coming to Prague's Estates Theatre

We spoke to soap and sitcom star Lane Davies about playing the most powerful role ever written for stage.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 02.03.2023 14:00:00 (updated on 01.03.2023) Reading time: 4 minutes

You have probably seen Lane Davies without knowing it. He made an appearance in “Seinfeld” and had a recurring role in “3rd Rock from the Sun,” among many other TV and film appearances.

He will take on the lead role of the aging monarch in an English-language staging of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” at the Estates Theatre on March 6. The cast includes several other experienced thespians such as Gregory Gudgeon from “All Quiet on the Western Front,” Taylor Napier from “Wheel of Time,” and Jessica Boone, who appears in “Carnival Row” and “Vinland Saga.”

Guy Roberts, who recently had supporting roles in “Medieval” (Jan Žižka) and “Wheel of Time” is directing. Davies and Gudgeon previously worked together in “Waiting for Godot” in 2021.

Aging gracefully into 'Lear'

Davies first played Lear as a guest artist at the University of Georgia in 2007. Since then, he feels he has matured into the role. “A younger actor can play Lear effectively, as it requires a great amount of energy, but there's a certain amount of life and stage experience that only comes with age,” Davies said.

“It's the reverse of the Romeo/Juliet conundrum – young enough to be believable as teenagers, old enough to have the skills to play them. With Lear, you have to be old enough to be believable, but young enough to have the energy the role requires,” he said.

This same production with Davies in the lead role premiered last year, but at Divadlo Na Prádle. The stage at the Estates Theatre is much larger and also more ornate, which fits the regal themes of “King Lear” and gives the actors a bit more space for action.

Following in Mozart's footsteps

Playing the same stage where Mozart conducted and where part of “Amadeus” was filmed can be a bit daunting for actors, but is also seen as an accomplishment. Davies says being on that stage is an “incredible opportunity.” He has appeared there previously in “Richard III,” “Troilus and Cressida,” and “The Trojan Women,” all of them Prague Shakespeare productions.

Shakespeare in part brought Davies to the Golden City. “I had wanted to visit for some time. A friend, who knew my penchant for Shakespeare, invited me over almost seven years ago, telling me there was a classical company in town. I contacted Guy Roberts. We hit it off and started working together. That was some 10 shows ago,” he said.

After “Lear” finishes, Davies will direct and act in a new play called “Plot Twist” by Jerome Dobson. Together with his wife Bridget, Dobson created the American prime-time soap opera “Santa Barbara.” Davies appeared in the series for five years in the 1980s. This will be at Divadlo Na Prádle on April 7, 8, 14, and 15.

Soaps, sitcoms, and Superman

In addition to the already mentioned plays and shows, Davies has appeared in several stage productions of the musical “Man of La Mancha, and in the TV series “Married… with Children,” “The Nanny,” “Dallas,” “The Golden Girls,” “Empty Nest,” and “Ellen.”

FEATURED EMPLOYERS

While Davies did appear in several movies, he prefers TV. “The ’80s were mostly soap operas for me and the ’90s were mostly sitcoms. And Superman. I did about five episodes of ‘Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,’ as one of their resident psychopaths,” he said. He played a time traveler called Tempus.

“‘Lois & Clark’ was fun, but I liked sitcom work better. It was more like a play, so for an old theater dog it is great to be able to do that and make real money at it.”

He prefers shows that shoot at a quick pace. “We used to shoot 60 pages a day on ‘Santa Barbara’,” he said. A film or episodic TV show would shoot three to four pages at the most in one day.

Lane Davies, top left, with the cast of 'Santa Barbara.'  Photo: NBC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection
Lane Davies, top left, with the cast of 'Santa Barbara.' Photo: NBC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection

'Retiring' to the stage

Now he most enjoys being in ensemble plays. “I realize in my semi-retirement that what I am is a regional theater guy who had a good run in LA. But my roots are in regional theater,” he said.

He also likes working with the same actors from season to season. “Everybody’s got each other's backs, and that is where I am happiest — with a good bunch of actors and actresses who care about each other,” he added.

Davies is well-known in some countries for the five years he spent on the soap opera Santa Barbara, which was a bit of a hit in Italy, France, Spain, and some former Eastern bloc counties. This meant that he needed a bodyguard when he traveled to some parts of Eastern Europe in the 1990s. At the same time, when he returned to L.A., he was just another actor looking for a new role.  

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