(Ben Brantley’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/28.)

Accomplished actress though she indisputably is, Phylicia Rashad is not someone who comes to mind when you think of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Ms. Rashad, after all, reigns in the American imagination as one of the ultimate wholesome maternal figures, a source of bottomless reassurance. Lear, even at his least unhinged, is anything but comforting.

But in her remarkable, pull-out-all-the-stops performance in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “Head of Passes,” which opened on Monday night at the Public Theater, Ms. Rashad gives the impression that she could definitely hold her own on Shakespeare’s blasted heath. Portraying a sorely tested Southern matriarch, she can be found railing against God and the elements with a harrowingly Lear-like rage.


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