Exit the King delivers a thought provoking performance

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I am given a program and enter the Black Box Theater, which is smaller than I imagined, but indeed a “black box.” Its walls are painted with a thick, inky gloss. The lights – cannon shaped – radiate heat and light unto the set of the play – three thrones – assorted other chairs. Light also falls onto a standing guard, Samuel Findlen-Golden ’20, who is looking around with these wide startling eyes and holding a spear, but the head is actually a cake knife. It is all very disorienting. I just want to sit down. I do.

I notice the set, which is very impressive and interesting and presents an atmosphere of decay, a central theme of the play. Who designed it? Oh, her name is Flannery. O’Connor. No, you dunce, read the page: Black-Ingersoll. Flannery Black-Ingersoll ’19. Beautiful set design Flannery. Bravo. I love those mirror shards, the sweep of red velvet across the back wall, the white sheer creeping the way of the audience, which is small but attentive. Beside me are my friends who are giggling and red. I am giggling too now.

Some sort of operatic piece has been playing for some minutes now and I am only hearing it now, a soprano’s tame and trembling howl. Listen to that vibrato, muchacho. Incredible. It is cutting out now, the lights are beginning to dim, and the soldier stands in the receding light, wild eyes catching what is left of the departing atmosphere. The curtain rises. There is no curtain. The show begins? It is always hard to tell when life ends and art begins.

The guard is suddenly yelling. That is something that sort of continues, the yelling. The actors and actresses all yell with such irreverence, with intent to disorient and confuse. It is very psychological. It is kind of silly. All of the actors enter, the play begins. It is director Charlotte Cramer ’19, watching from a corner, observing her work.

Exit The King is silly and horrific and simultaneously melodramatic and bleak. It falls within the Theater of the Absurd. The script rhymes and reasons with itself solely and not the audience’s expectations. It is very funny, but always very startling. It is incredibly well written.

Similar to the yelling, there is a lot of rather visceral noise and touch. I recall Queen Marie, played by Claire Sullivan ’18, slapping an electrical box in a way that actually frightened me. Things similar to that.

Somebody is laughing at every joke made (there are lots of jokes made) and I am starting to wonder if she were planted in the audience by the director, as a sort of pro-laughter agitator. She is laughing with such heavy pronunciation, like a gun salute: huh-huh-huh. I am laughing too now. I do not think at her; I would like to imagine I was not so cruel.

The end is sad and stares you in your frightened sockets. It is genuine, stare-into-the-abyss sort of terror. You would think that we, as an age group, a young generation, would not be able to so acutely portray that sort of horror but the Robinson Players do so, wonderfully. Much of that capability, rested on Michael Driscal ’19, the rambling, dying king, who provided so much of the confusion and fear of the play. Other notables: Julia Gutterman ’20, who delivered her lines and character with a lovely deadpan and Justin Demers ’18, who portrayed the Doctor and did so with wit. Bravo.

The play ends. I am happy to have been there.

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