The word “titan” conjures visions of enormous strength and size. So it seems appropriate that the five-year-old Titan Theatre Company is gradually building itself up into one of the borough’s predominant performance groups.
Its latest production, William Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” an intimate family drama about an aging king as well as an explosive political commentary, will open at what is often referred to as the borough’s premier performance space, Queens Theatre.
“It puts us right in the middle of the borough,” the group’s artistic director Lenny Banovez said, prior to a recent rehearsal for the play, which he is also directing.
And Queens Theatre’s managing director Taryn Sacramone is happy to have the group. “The feeling is definitely mutual,” she said. “To have that energy in our studio theater is exciting. I’m proud that they approached us.”
Located in the middle of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the indoor theater, one of the few remaining reminders of the 1964 World’s Fair, has been renovated several times over the years and today boasts no fewer than three performance areas.
In a further effort to make the play, perhaps Shakespeare’s most challenging, as accessible to today’s audiences as possible, Banovez has trimmed it down from its usual running time of nearly four hours.
Assuming the demanding title role for the first time in his career, Broadway veteran Terry Layman said, “It’s exhilarating. I’m so glad I’m doing it when I’m young enough to have the stamina. It’s so rich and challenging.”
And he’s especially pleased to be working with Titan. “It’s a startup company. There is no obligation for spectacle. The play is distilled down to human level. The constraints of the budget produce incredible creativity.”
The company, which specializes in Shakespeare but is not averse to tackling other works of interest, was formed by Banovez along with Kevin Beebee, who is producing “Lear,” and Laura Frye, who appears as one of the king’s daughters.
The company has a core group of actors, most card-carrying union members, who return with regularity. One of them, Michael Selkirk, is back for his fourth go-round with Titan, this time taking on the role of Gloucester, an old man blind to the events going on around him.
Selkirk appreciates that “Titan has a very focused approach to Shakespeare’s work. Sometimes Shakespeare isn’t so accessible. Titan tries to tell a story the way a modern audience can understand it.”
Conceived with the goal of “breathing new life and clarity into classical works of theater,” Titan Theatre Company seems well on its way.