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Big Bird drops in on King Lear

I did not see Young Jean Lee's "The Shipment" last year, but it was widely hailed as an audacious drama about slavery by an adventurous new Korean-American playwright. Now "Lear," her 80-minute deconstruction of Shakespeare's "King Lear," is also audacious, though her radically original voice pulls us in an exasperating number of contrary directions.

On one level, this is a macabre look at Lear's vicious daughters and Gloucester's sons after they banished the old King into the heath, then gouged out the eyes of his courtier. On another, it is a guilty meditation on aging fathers and callow children's recognition of their own fates. So far so interesting, especially with Elizabethan finery contradicted by modern vanity. But when Edmund turns into Big Bird and Edgar insists he is squeaking like a dolphin, the offspring are not the only childish ones.

WHAT "Lear"

WHERE Soho Rep, 46 Walker St.

INFO $40; 212-352-3101;

BOTTOM LINE Bold new voice, distracted by itself

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