THEATRE: KING CHARLES III

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KING CHARLES III

First of all, let me tell you that I recognize the merit of this entire production, from the writing to the direction to the acting. But since I’m always honest with you, I have to say that, even though I applaud the Pasadena Playhouse for giving us Southern Californians the opportunity to see this West End and Broadway play, it is so far from my cup of tea that I was pretty much bored to death by King Charles III.

(L-R): Jim Abele, Mark Capri, Dylan Saunders, and Laura Gardner (as Camilla.) Photo by Jenny Graham.

(L-R): Jim Abele, Mark Capri, Dylan Saunders, and Laura Gardner (as Camilla.) Photo by Jenny Graham.

I have a feeling that everyone else gave it glowing reviews, and rightfully so. As far as theatre in LA goes, this production is head and shoulders above so many that I see.  And even though I have many issues with this play, in general, it’s still good theatre.

I just have to tell you that my review will be colored by the fact that I’m one of the few people in the world who admits that I’m not a fan of Shakespeare. It’s interesting–growing up, nobody ever says they’re a fan of Shakespeare, or classical music, unless they are a nerd or an ice skater, but once people hit forty or so, all of a sudden they declare that they love these things. That is just such a weird phenomenon to me.

This is not a Shakespearean play, by the way, but I have a feeling that Old Willy would have been proud of it. King Charles III is a modern day play written in the style of Shakespeare, which I just never want to hear.

And it’s so wordy–it just goes on and on. The Pasadena Playhouse website says that the show is two hours and fifteen minutes long, but it’s really two hours and forty-five minutes! That’s a big difference. During the uber-long first act, people started applauding at the end of various scenes, thinking, (and in my case, hoping,) that Act I was finally over. The entire show is waaaay too long, but that first act is brutal. At least Act II is somewhat more entertaining.

Adam Haas Hunter and Meghan Andrews as William and Kate.  (I guess this was supposed to be back when he had hair!) Photo by Jenny Graham.

Adam Haas Hunter and Meghan Andrews as William and Kate. (I guess this was supposed to be back when he had hair!) Photo by Jenny Graham.

King Charles III, which I understand was a major hit in London three years ago, and then was nominated for Tony awards on Broadway, (which means that I’m just about the only one who didn’t like it,) is an imaginary tale of what might happen when real-life Prince Charles finally becomes King upon the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth. Which is another reason I didn’t like it. I find it totally offensive that it’s about real people who are alive now. But I have a feeling that’s why some audiences like it! I think that there’s a certain amount of schadenfreude that goes into one’s enjoyment of this story.

But I’m sort-of a fan of the Royals, including Prince Charles. And Camilla, too! [Note: I definitely was not a fan of theirs during the Diana era, but I feel that they’ve acquitted themselves very nicely since then. And you know that I’m a supporter of true love, but that’s another story for another time.] And I think it’s a travesty that wonderful Kate is portrayed as the conniving villain. Perhaps the playwright should have made this whole family an imaginary one, to go along with his entire narrative.

But let’s get to a few positives of this production. First of all, I appreciated the powerful full-cast opening, carrying what appeared to be real candles. Also, the Pasadena Playhouse stage area was altered a bit, which is somewhat interesting. On the night I saw it, some of the audience members in the special seats right in front of the stage looked absolutely ecstatic when the actors sat right next to them in one scene, so at least those people really enjoyed it. Actually, I’m sure that most intelligent theatre-goers will be fans.

 Photo by Jenny Graham.

Photo by Jenny Graham.

King Charles III is not a comedy, but there are some laughs, which is always a good thing. And all but one of the English accents on this sixteen-actor all American cast are good. (One young guy sounded like he was playing an American cowboy, which actually provided me with some of the little mirth I had that night.) And absolutely all of the acting is excellent. I have absolutely no quarrels in that category. I think it helped a bit that there was not one actor with whom I was familiar, so I saw all of them solely as their characters.

The play starts-out intriguingly enough, but in a short while, it gets too political, and way too boring, for my taste. And I feel the timing is appalling with the Queen being so old. I was cringing during that whole opening funeral scene, hoping the grande dame doesn’t know about this play. But guess what? It turns-out that it was already produced in England. Three years ago. And was a hit! So who am I to object?

But having it done in that country made it even more disrespectful that Prince Harry’s parentage is questioned in the play. They even come right out and name James Hewitt, the man we all assume is Harry’s biological father. And belabor the point, to boot! Ouch.

Dylan Saunders and Sarah Hollis. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Dylan Saunders and Sarah Hollis. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Speaking of Harry, this is interesting—the play was written at least three years ago, with Harry having a black girlfriend, and now, in 2017, he does! That’s either incredibly prescient of the playwright if he really did write it that way, or the casting just went along with current events, or it was just a fluke that they cast the actress who’s in it. But, as a semi-ashamed avid reader of the Daily Mail, I found that whole scenario to be the most interesting aspect of the show. [Note: I never know what a production is going for with the casting of any ethnicities, including my own; I can rarely tell if it’s to actually portray that ethnicity in the presentation, or if a director is just trying to be diverse. I have a feeling that if I was cast in A Raisin In the Sun, we’d know they were going for the latter.]

Jim Abele as King Charles and Nike Doukas as...Princess Diana!!!  Photo by Jenny Graham.

Jim Abele as King Charles and Nike Doukas as…Princess Diana!!! Photo by Jenny Graham.

One of my little annoyances with King Charles III is that the character of the ghost of Princess Diana should be much younger. She died at the age of thirty-six, yet here she’s portrayed as a senior citizen! So I don’t know if that was on purpose to age her for the twenty years since she passed, or if they just cast an older actress in the part. Either way, I found it very annoying, even though it’s a small role. [Note: The actress is pretty; I’m just talking age-wise. But you just know that I love her gorgeous tiara!!!]

To sum up, if you’re a fan of Shakespeare and good acting, and not one of the Royal Family, this is the play for you. But if like me, you’re a Royal-lover and Shakespeare-eschewer, I suggest waiting for Pasadena Playhouse’s next production, Miracle on 34th Street. You can’t go wrong with that classic holiday tale!

King Charles III running through December 3, 2017
Pasadena Playhouse  39 South El Molino Avenue  Pasadena  626-356-7529  www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org

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