Though not as “absurd” as some of his plays, Ionesco’s “Exit The King” brings some issues to the stage that are thought-provoking and just edgy enough to make us think about the “art” and tragedy of death. With some opening night jitters and dropped lines hampering the flow of the play, the West End Players Guild cast still comes through with flying colors.
Robert Ashton serves us well as King Berenger the First, a four-hundred-plus monarch who is having a bit of difficulty grasping the end of his reign and his life. Though his first wife, Queen Marguerite and his doctor try to convince him of his coming demise, his current wife, Queen Marie, persuades him to think positively and fight the inevitable.
Nancy Crouse is a rock as Queen Marguerite. In the final scene, in particular, she shines as she prepares the dying King for his final moments. Bridget Barisonek brings mourning to a whole new level with delightful results. As the doctor, David K. Gibbs brings us the most absurd moments in Ionesco’s script as he double-talks and mis-diagnoses his way through the King’s condition.
Reginald Pierre is steady as the unpretentious Guard who must announce everything from “God Save The King” to “The King Has Stumbled.” Rounding out the cast is a sparkling performance by Liana Kopchak who plays a sarcastic domestic and then becomes a weepy nurse during the final scenes. It’s all tied together with the strong direction of Renee Sevier-Monsey who brings out the almost cartoonish characteristics of this cast of misfits.
Without the strength of his “Rhinoceros” or the true absurdity of some of his other plays, “Exit The King” is still a stalwart in the Ionesco playbook. West End Players Guild has added a nice set by Ken Clark and the strong lighting design of Amy Ruprecht. Despite the uneven quality of some of the play on opening night, “Exit The King” should be on your playlist. West End Players Guild will also participate in the first ever St. Louis Fringe Festival June 21-25. And they also announced their next season, which I’ll talk about soon. Catch “Exit The King” through April 22nd. Contact WEPG at http://www.westendplayers.org for tickets or more information.