June 1, 2009

Don't Rush the King's Exit

I couldn't pass up the chance to see double Oscar winners, the great Geoffrey Rush and Susan Sarandon in their Broadway debuts. Eugene Ionesco's merciless and potentially mirthless treatise on death and dying Exit the King has been expertly and joyously translated by its star Mr. Rush and its director Neil Armfield. The result is an uproarious and rollicking fun time at the theatre, while pulling you back to the somber reality of our mortality.

King Berenger is at death's door, (After all, he is at least 400 years old), but totally unwilling to step over the threshold. So his first wife, the cold-hearted and acerbic Queen Marguerite (Ms. Sarandon) and the Doctor (William Sadler) are on hand to make the sovereign accept his fate and relinquish power. His younger second wife, the overly-emotional Queen Marie (Lauren Ambrose) is trying to do the complete opposite---denying His Majesty's impending demise.

Mr. Rush's Tony-nominated performance is a riot and a scream. His gravity-defying antics serve to illustrate how much he is physically fighting off death. (And can anyone tell me how he changed his hair?) Andrea Martin as Juliette (nurse, maid, all-around royal servant) is her usual comical and scene-stealing self. Brian Hutchison who plays the loyal Guard, provides many laughs as well. Ms. Sarandon plays her role quietly, sardonically, but eventually, with great compassion. I wasn't too impressed with Ms. Ambrose's histrionics.

Two people behind me left during intermission. I overheard them sarcastically say that this play was SO inspiring and uplifting. Well this play was written as a lesson in dying, how us mortals resist or postpone the ends of our lives, and how we should go gently into that quiet night. Too bad they missed the more serious and moving second act. Because that's where the best lessons were to be had.

The show is closing its limited run on 14 June 2009.


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