Saturday, July 6, 2013

Shakespeare By The Sea’s 2013 Production of King John

Why is everything in Altadena located on or just off of Lake Avenue? I feel that there are no other streets in this city. I’ve been to Altadena many times, and every single time I’ve taken the Lake Ave. exit, and I’ve never gone more than a block off of that street.  Anyway, last night I caught a production of King John at Farnsworth Park, which is located at the corner of Lake Ave. and E. Mount Curve Ave.

I first tried parking on Lake, but parallel parking on a hill is a bit tricky with my car, for it likes to roll forward even if I’m idling in reverse. I managed to get out of that spot and onto the cross street, which was much flatter terrain. As always, I got there early – at 6:38 p.m. (for an eight o’clock start). The cast was rehearsing, doing a sort of speed-through of certain scenes in their street clothes. I knew then it was going to be a good performance, because I was engaged even in this rehearsal. There were a few other early arrivals, but I grabbed an aisle seat in the front row, which is exactly where I wanted to be.

Last week I saw this company’s production of All’s Well That Ends Well in a park in Glendale, and there was a basketball court nearby. This time it was a baseball game happening in another section of the park, and there was a tremendous amount of noise. Must have been an important game. Well, important to someone. I hoped it would be over before the performance began, and figured perhaps that was the reason for the later start (8 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.).

The rehearsal seemed to be at least partially for the benefit of Constance, who was performing the role for the first time. After the rehearsal, they ran through the sword fights.

The performance was quite good. And this was a play I had never seen performed on stage before (the only production I’d seen was the BBC production). There were a couple of moments where the dialogue was lost during sword play. But really the only fault in the production from my perspective was the music. Not that the music was bad, or even inappropriate, but that it played under basically the entire play, and it’s not needed. The music is at best unnecessary, and at worst intrusive and distracting. Trust the text and your actors to carry the play. The cast is certainly good enough.

The blocking was also quite good, making the relationships clear just from how the characters were arranged in any given scene. I liked how at the end of Act III Scene i, when England and France separated again and there was the call “To arms,” everyone exited except the Cardinal, who remained momentarily upstage. That was a really nice moment. And this production had several moments like that. The blocking never felt forced.

By the way, the night’s Constance did a good job, apart from one missed entrance cue at the beginning of the second half (which was handled well anyway, and didn’t throw off anyone’s performance).

The play was two hours, including the intermission, which came at the end of Act III Scene iii, when King John has ordered Hubert to kill Arthur. If you missed the show, you still have several more chances to catch it. Performances are scheduled for Rossmoor, Ranchos Palos Verdes, Manhattan Beach, Oak Park, Hermosa Beach, Newport Beach, South Pasadena, Torrance, Laguna Niguel, Long Beach and San Pedro.

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