“King Charles III” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review aired on KBAQ October 10, 2016


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Historic speculation can make an interesting script but playwright Mike Bartlett doesn’t achieve that in “King Charles III.”  Arizona Theatre Company’s production won’t entice audiences into what might happen when Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II passes her throne to her eldest son, Prince Charles because of amazingly bland treatment of royal eccentricities.

When the Prince becomes King, he brings his modern life style to the staid and formalistic monarchy.  Since the two lifestyles don’t mix, the script should be fascinating but it’s not.  His tempestuous relationship with Diana is discussed fleetingly and his two hip sons, William and Harry, try to uncomfortably mesh their contemporary thinking into the royal lifestyle.

The play should make fascinating theater because the characters are riddled with controversy but the playwright fails to find stimulating ways to present the issues so the drab piece never gets going.  That the play is compared to Shakespearean tragedies is ludicrous.

The play adopts a preachy and wearisome textbook approach to the royal lives.  Camilla shows up in her preening glory trying to become a respected royal but nothing much is made of her efforts.  William’s wife, Kate, comes with her opinionated lifestyle but so what?  A hidebound Prime Minister presents challenging issues of the day with no spark, and Harry’s playboy ways keep him from establishing a deep relationship with his girlfriend.

The play’s biggest fault is its wrong picture presented of Charles who becomes a wandering know-nothing who is flustered by soap-opera issues plaguing his family and who has only one dull issue facing his people that he can’t seem to solve with Parliament.  As we all know, Charles is not a loaf but a man with ideas and projects as he tries to be a contributor.

Matt August’s staging rambles never inspiring audience involvement.  The play takes an eternity to present its issues.  August often lets actor Peter Van Norden’s Charles stand stage center chattering unexcitedly about issues in which he is not engaged.   Van Norden appearance and presentation seem nothing like the Prince we observe on news reports.  Better are several supporting players including Cathy Dresbach’s hilarious take on Camilla and the quartet of actors who play his sons and their female companions.

“King Charles III” should have been engaging but the play is flat and dry.  “King Charles III” continues through October 23 at the Herberger Theater Center.  To order tickets, call the Arizona Theatre Company box office at 602-256-6995 or order tickets online at www.arizonatheatre.org.

Grade: D