What: Ionesco’s Exit the King
When: runs until September 9th. Performance dates listed here
Where: Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District
Discounted student tickets info: See BlogUT’s guide to summer theatre

Soulpepper Theatre’s production of Exit the King is perfectly satisfactory if you want to see a production in which all the parts are assigned, all the lines read, and all the stage directions followed. But it completely lacks vision, creativity, and for the most part, the ability to bring the comedy out. Exit the King is one of Ionesco’s absurdist plays, centering around a hoary king whose kingdom has been reduced to the size of his estate, and whose remaining life expectancy has been reduced to the length of the play: two hours. It’s a one-act play, which primarily consists of the king whining and screaming about how he cannot and does not want to die. Meanwhile his various wives and servants attempt to comfort him and help him come to terms with his mortality.

The Soulpepper cast is incredibly stilted and they often assume a v-shaped arrangement on stage so that they can say their lines and be assured the audience can see them all at once: highly unimaginative. As many of the lines were said, I had the sneaking suspicion that if I had read them in the text, I would have found them funny, but in this production, the most you can hope for is that they elicit a smile. Part of the problem is that the text itself doesn’t do much to help suggest movement and action, so bringing the dialogue to life is no small feat. The one worthwhile scene is the King’s first magnanimous entrance, which is downright well-earned comedy. Otherwise, if you’re only going to see one play at Soulpepper, check out Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, which is a very good production of a very good play.

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