Friday, March 27, 2009

Exit the King

It was good to see Susan Sarandon on stage, a first for me -- and probably for most people since it’s been 37 years since she’s been on Broadway. Playing Queen Marguerite, she’s haughty and controlling in the revival of Eugene Ionesco's Exit the King, which opened last night at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

I’m not going to comment too much on specifics of this production because I have never liked absurdist comedies, so it’s hard for me to judge its quality. I’m actually not a big fan of comedies in general, but ones that rely heavily on farce and low comedy really bore me, and Theatre of the Absurd is full of these two elements. Perhaps when the show premiered in 1968 the form was shocking and exciting, but to me its tedious.

What I can say is that Sarandon (in photo) is commanding in this her return to the stage and fellow Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush gives an energetic, larger-than-life performance as the king.

Neil Armfield directs a cast that also includes a laugh-out-loud funny Andrea Martin as the maid, Juliette, Lauren Ambrose as Queen Marie, Brian Hutchison as the Guard and William Sadler as the Doctor.

The “plot” centers around a 400-year-old despotic ruler whose incompetence has left his once formidable country in near ruin. Queen Marguerite and other members of the court try to convince him that he will die in 90 minutes, but he refuses to relinquish control, even as he begins rapidly aging before our very eyes. The idea is certainly timely after George W. Bush’s disastrous eight-year reign.

Dale Ferguson has created powerfully colorful sets and costumes and Damien Cooper’s lighting is bright, and really fun in the strobe light scene.

Tickets for Exit the King, which plays a limited run through June 14, are available by calling (212) 239-6200, by logging on to Telecharge or by visiting the Barrymore Theatre box office at 243 W. 47th St. For more information, visit ExitTheKing.

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