Entertainment » Theatre

King Charles III

by Dale Reynolds
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Nov 15, 2017
King Charles III

Mike Bartlett's brilliant 2014 play, "King Charles III", has been given an excellent production at the Pasadena Playhouse. Bartlett posits the notion that just after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, in the near future, her eldest, Charles, Prince of Wales (Jim Abele), automatically becomes King, although his coronation won't take place for another three months.

Between the funeral of his mother and the upcoming coronation, politics threatens this new reign with a danger of collapse. The Prime Minister (J. Paul Boehmer) wants the monarch to sign a bill on press censorship that the liberal-leaning 70-year-old doesn't wish to sign. And as any modern monarch is obligated to support whatever laws Parliament hands to him or her, and as Charles adamantly refuses to accede to, a constitutional crisis is at hand.

Without giving away any plot secrets, a surprising lack of support from those Royals he thought would automatically shore him up crushes his spirit.

A side story is the rebellion of his younger son, Harry (Dylan Saunders), declaring his love of a commoner of mixed-race, Jess (Sarah Hollis), increasing his desire to resign from the Royal Family (since he's sixth or seventh in line for the throne, he might as well get on with a sincere life, while what is left unsaid by Bartlett is how much actual money Harry would be losing in so rash an act).

Written extremely well in a blank verse that, coupled with his royalty-in-danger plot, makes it remarkably Shakespearean, beautifully spoken by this mostly American cast using authentic British accents -- street as well as posh. It's exciting as all get-out, keeping you on the edge of one's seat in suspense over how to resolve this political and social dilemma we are privy to.

The entire cast is up to the task, a thank you very much to the superb work of director Michael Michetti, including Adam Haas Hunter as a tall, blond William; Meghan Andrews as a Lady M-like Kate, his wife; Robert Beddall in a variety of roles; Mark Capri as a Lurch-looking palace bureaucrat; Reiss; Bo Foxworth in three small roles, all deliciously different; Laura Gardner as a strong look-alike Camilla, wife to Charles; Eamon Hunt as both a butler and Archbishop of Canterbury; and the upsetting to everyone girlfriend of Harry, Jess; along with the other fine actors, making this cast remarkably on target in their performances.

David Meyer's wide, shallow set design works wonders in allowing the sound to project forward and act as a beige, pillared backdrop for the action, beautifully costumed by Alex Jaeger, and the well-met-by-moonlight lighting of Elizabeth Harper. Everything, from the tea set to the hand props, is bona fide in their look.

It also features a magnificent choral score by Peter Bayne, recorded by the Pasadena Master Chorale (under the able direction of Jeffrey Bernstein) which adds incredible dignity to the traditional setting and actions.

Bartlett's play originated at London's Almeida Theatre, transferred to the West End where it won a 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Play, was broadcast on PBS Masterpiece earlier this year before being released in May on DVD -- well worth picking up, by the by, if only to see how this production stacks up to the British original, which starred the late Tim Pigott-Smith as the new King of Great Britain, Charles the Third.

"King Charles III" plays through December 3 at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Avenue (just south of Colorado Blvd), Pasadena, 91101. For tickets or information, call 626-356-7529 or visit www.PadadenaPlayhouse.org.

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