The legend of King Arthur is one that has been told many times in many ways. From books to plays to cartoons to movies, the story of the knights of the round table is one that always captures the imagination.
Now Idle Muse Theatre Company’s artistic director Evan Jackson offers up his own adaptation of the classic story, with the added twist of focusing on King Arthur’s wife Queen Guinevere and his evil sister Morgan Le Fay.
At the twilight of an era, the two most powerful women in Camelot battle to control their destiny. The women walk a dangerous path as Arthur’s final battle approaches in a kingdom defined by magic, intrigue, and adventure.
This female-focused approach gives a fresh feel to established material, leading to a very enjoyable theatrical experience at the intimate black box The Edge Off-Broadway Theater.
As the legend goes, King Arthur rules Camelot with his fair Queen Guinevere at his side. Sir Lancelot, the most noble knight in the land, stands as Arthur’s champion and best friend. Life becomes complicated when Lancelot and Guinevere enter into a forbidden love affair, which Morgan and her son Mordred try to use to throw the kingdom into chaos so they may take power.
Jackson has a good knack for keeping the dialogue sounding appropriately medieval, yet still accessible to the modern ear. It is Jackson’s command of the performing space that impresses the most though.
It is refreshing to see a director who knows how to block in a thrust stage setup. All three sides of the audience had an excellent view of the action throughout the evening.
The most impressive thing of all is how Jackson has partnered with his technical experts to create a storytelling style that excites all the senses. Kudos to production manager Shellie DiSalvo, lighting and projection designer Laura Wiley, music director Kati Lechner, music and sound designer L.J. Luthringer, and scenic designer Stina Taylor for working together to pull off a stunning production.
Another factor that plays mightily into the enjoyability of the play is that the scene changes are done very quickly. A pet peeve of many audience members is long scene changes, so ones that are choreographed to be but a blink of the eye always stand out.
FACE OF THE FRANCHISE
Among the cast, Caty Gordon makes an ideal Queen Guinevere. She is refined, yet accessible; strong, yet gentle. Gordon creates a human Guinevere that reacts to the changing world around her. Gordon offers honest emotions from pride to love to anguish.
Elizabeth MacDougald’s Morgan Le Fay is driven by dark motivations, but is not pure evil as some adaptations paint her. Like Gordon’s Guinevere, MacDougald’s Morgan is human. She loves her son, she is jealous of her brother, and she craves power, but underneath it all she respects Guinevere and wants the best for the kingdom.
Joel Thompson is extremely effective as King Arthur. He exudes a kindness and love for his kingdom and its people, but also shows great power and anger when pushed. I loved his performance.
Xavier Lagunas has the look of Mordred down pat, and musters a dark and evil persona to match. Jack Sharkey’s Lancelot is one torn by conflicting emotions – his platonic love for his king and his romantic love for Guinevere.
Keeping with the female-focus of The Last Queen of Camelot, writer/director Jackson gives us a female Merlin as well. Laura Jones Macknin is convincing as the aged magician.
IMPRESSIVE ALL AROUND
Among the supporting cast there are a number of impressive players including Jennifer Mohr, Jamie Redwood, Troy Schaefein, Ross Compton, and Brendan Hutt. Understudies include Anasazi Bhakti, Katy Crow, Orion Lay-Sleeper, Andre Colin, Whitney Ann Bates, Paul Kaufmann, J. Christian Hill, and Courtney Abbott.
Costumes by Amanda Freja Johanson are simple, but effective. Costuming a medieval period piece on a budget can be very difficult, what Johanson has done is a very impressive achievement. The battle scenes by violence designer Libby Beyreis near the end of the production are excellent.
The Last Queen of Camelot adapted and directed by Idle Muse Theatre Company artistic director Evan Jackson is filled with romance and charm, plotting and deception, and the unrelenting human spirit. It is a triumphant theatrical accomplishment.
Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 PM and Sundays at 3 PM through April 23. There are student and senior discounts, as well as Thursday Industry Night options.
For tickets and additional information visit www.IdleMuse.org or call the box office at (773) 340-9438.
The Edge Off-Broadway Theater is located at 1133 W. Catalpa Ave in Chicago. There is ample street parking and the theater is also near the Bryn Mawr Red Line station and is on the 36 Broadway bus route. The theater is wheelchair-accessible and complimentary assisted listening devices are available.
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
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