A stunning set and costume design (Erica Hoelscher) launch viewers into the preposterous world of EXIT THE KING, in the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium’s uproarious and profound Fringe production of Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist classic. Referencing Piranesi’s 18th-century monochrome etchings of the decaying ruins of ancient Rome and the colorful youth-culture fashions of the Pop ‘60s, the contrast between them is a trenchant visualization of the disconnect between the reality of the dying monarch’s deteriorating state and his foolish state of denial in refusing to acknowledge the obvious: that he and his kingdom—and all of us–are falling apart and the future is not as bright as the youthful attire he and his courtiers don.
Under director Tina Brock’s signature style of theatrical ‘ridiculopathy,’ a spot-on cast brings acerbic humor, hysteria, and pathos to Ionesco’s ludicrous characters and morbid situation. The extraordinary Robb Hutter commands the stage in a flawless performance as the megalomaniacal, risible, and ultimately tragic Berenger, the 400-year-old King/Everyman, who goes through the universal stages of dying and at last comes to accept his inevitable mortality, as everyone around him vanishes (dramatic lighting by Andrew Cowles). Supported by Brock’s affecting sound design, Patricia Durante and Anna Lou Hearn as Berenger’s queens, Susan Giddings as his doctor, Jenna Kuerzi as the maid, and Bob Schmidt as the royal guard all hit the tragicomic mark with precision and deliver a powerful 90 minutes of intensely thought-provoking, hilarious, and heart-wrenching irrationality on life, death, and the human condition. [Walnut Street Theatre, Independence Studio on 3, 825 Walnut St., 3rd floor] September 1-20, 2015; fringearts.com/eugene-ionescos-exit-the-king.