Exit The King

Death: really, what could be funnier? This seems to have been Eugene Ionesco’s starting point. 

Whether the play really is all that funny, as always with comedy, can only be known in the moment with a living breathing audience…I’ll get back to you.

Meanwhile, my advice to people who read this blog, and even to those who don’t, is: get yourself down the Gym—pronto. Why? Because you never know when you’ll find yourself playing King Berenger the First. I will go further, you never know when, whatever protestations to the contrary the director makes, you’ll find yourself hired as a stunt double for Geoffrey Rush. 

Geoffrey Rush who gave a riveting, award-winning performance on Broadway in Exit The King, is, as we all know, an extraordinarily fine actor with the physical facility of an elastic band. One assumes that with an international film career he can comfortably afford any necessary physio.

Personal physique aside. I have a strong fondness for South Florida. The place has been good to me. This is my eighth show in these parts over the past ten years, and always in the winter months when the daytime temperature hovers agreeably in the 50s, 60s, or even 70s with mellow breezes, and flawless blue skies. 

One amazing feature of the locale is the Kennel Club with its Damon Runyon characters disposed around its thirty or so card tables, any one of whom can give you a fine post-hand analysis in poker dialect:

“With sixteen cards to hit to make my straight and the nut flush draw—hey! I’m not going anywhere.”

“Right! But I gotta push in that situation.”

And the guy who took the long chances that paid off when his off-suited 9-7 hit two pairs on the Turn, and filled up on the River, makes a note to watch out for the guy whose A-4 Spades he annihilated and from whom he lifted an easy hundred bucks. In the Mano-a-Mano etiquette of the card room, the two players grimace as comrades. There is silent agreement on the unfairness of life and the futility of existence.

About the ocean: when the rip tides are low, and when there are no Bluebottle Jellyfish around, it’s pleasant to float in a sea the temperature of a warm bath. 

Florida is a touchstone though, for the effects of a changing climate. A hurricane that hit locally the city of Miami a brief six or seven years ago, now might cover the whole state. The new migration of many thousands of sharks off the Florida coast is reported on the TV news, and some of the condo buildings built on the shores have a bad case of sandy gingivitis. 

Talking of decline, decay and death and how amusing it can be—Not. Theatre is dying too, like it always has been. Four established theater companies in these parts have closed within the last two years. Florida Stage, Promethean, Mosaic, and The Caldwell. Sure, there are plenty of new young theater companies springing up, but few of them have much funding. 

In that context, producing a play about death, whose author was one of the masters of the absurd, a man who was obsessed and scared and struggling, a play which challenges its actors and its audience, is deeply life-affirming.

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