Thursday, May 28, 2009

Exit The King (The SOB Review)

Exit The King (The SOB Review) - Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York, New York
**1/2 (out of ****)

All hail Geoffrey Rush! Long live the king!

As the 400+ year old King Berenger in the often spellbinding new translation of Eugene Ionesco's Exit The King he co-wrote with Neil Armfield, the Academy Award winning actor delivers the year's most brilliant and breathtaking tour de force performance that is simply unmissable.

Quite a feat for a beleaguered king who doesn't quite know when to make his long overdue exit, either by abdicating the thrown or gasping his last breath. Even as the play -- as well as king -- fizzles out during the long-winded second act, Rush remains a vibrant force to behold.

Rush is ably supported by a solid cast, including the ever redoubtable Andrea Martin as the king's servant Juliette and a nuanced Lauren Ambrose as the king's first wife Queen Marie. If Susan Sarandon disappoints as Queen Marguerite, it's because there's no hint of irony in her performance, which is what theatre of the absurd requires.

While Rush and Armfield (who also directed) may have found eerie parallels with the world as we knew it as recently as one year ago (when they first mounted their revival of Ionesco's work Down Under), their intended parable was entirely lost on the lovely lady behind me. Immediately after the measurably more riveting first act, she asked me what Exit The King was supposed to symbolize. I gingerly explained that it was intended in part as a metaphor for the hapless leadership the English-speaking world had just a few short months ago. "Oh," she replied, "I never would have thought that."

Despite its shortcomings, I wholeheartedly recommend seeing Exit The King. Geoffrey Rush's awe-inspiring achievement is worthy of a king.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 28 May, 2009, Blogger Schuler Douglass said...

It is about death. Yours specifically - or mine - or the lady sitting behind you. It is less than political, although one may find those parallels. And ascribing "requirements" to absurdist drama is dubious.

At 28 May, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Yes, of course, it is about death.

However, in revising Exit The King, Geoffrey Rush and Neil Armfield are on record that they intended this to correlate with the leadership of the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Their political ascriptions, not mine.

Rush has stated:
"When we were doing it in 2007, we had three tired, moribund governments in the English-speaking world, and that's very much one of the key points of the play. The play itself, this is its moment more than any other point since 1962. You can imagine that, in the shadow of the Bomb, the play had a particular resonance in that era of absurdist writing."


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