[THEATER REVIEW] deLEARious Spoofs Shakespeare

Chase Studinski as King James with cast. Photo by Darrett Sanders

It seems that spoofs are in style at local theaters. Something Rotten takes on Shakespeare at the Ahmanson, Spamilton parodies the smash musical Hamilton and locally, Open Fist Theatre Company’s production, deLEARious is entertaining audiences at the Atwater Village Theatre. The play, written by Second City’s Ron West and composer Phil Swann, is a revival of the company’s earlier hit production.

The play spans centuries as it alternates between a contemporary casting office where a composer and pianist are auditioning actresses for a new musical production of Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear, and 1603 when newly crowned King James meddles with Shakespeare’s writing of the tragedy while demanding that the bard collaborate in rewriting what will become the King James Bible. Flashbacks to England in 60 A.D. when the Lear tragedy takes place add to the story’s complications. All this is punctuated by lively songs, frenetic dances and witty dialogue.

It’s almost all too much to digest.

Among the many scenes I particularly enjoyed were those where Shakespeare works with a committee of clerical biblical scholars to edit earlier versions of the Bible.

The large cast takes multiple roles. I enjoyed Chase Studinski’s foppish King James and Scott Mosenson’s interpretation of William Shakespeare. In one sardonic scene, he comes home to cranky wife Ann Hathaway and asks “How are the kids?” She caustically replies “Our son died of the plague.”

The repartee is typical of the fast- paced dialog that punctuates the play. Gina Manziello, Robyn Roth and Rachel Addington are provocatively seductive and sinister as Lear’s daughters Cordelia, Goneril and Regan.

Director and composer Ron West ably directs the large cast through fast paced antics and also appears in the cast himself. Music director Jan Roper holds the action together as she deftly accompanies the actors on the piano.

This is a show with many twists, puns and slapstick that will appeal to Monty Python and Mel Brooks enthusiasts. I found it a tad too long and would suggest an edit to trim out non-essentials. The almost non-stop music at times seemed repetitive. The show might benefit from some variation and pacing in the musical style.

It has been awhile since I read King Lear and I found myself a little confused by the spoof’s turning tragedy into comedy. I wished I could have revisited the drama to better appreciate the twists and turns of the story.

In a season when holiday music bombards us everywhere, deLEARious provides an alternative diversion that may be welcome.

deLEARious plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 3 through December 10th at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village. $30. (323)882-8812, or www.openfist.org. Free parking in the Atwater Xing lot one block south of the theater or on the street



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