The House Theatre of Chicago presents the world premiere of THE CROWNLESS KING: PART II.
The House launched a mythical trilogy last fall with The Iron Stag: Part I. The three part series follows the quest of an orphaned innocent named Casper. In Part I, Casper’s identity is discovered. His claim to the magic hammer reveals that he is the destined ruler. In PART II, Casper, now King, continues his quest for ‘the better good‘ to unite his kingdom.
Playwrights Chris Matthews and Nathan Allen, also serving as director, continue to build their own adventure. In Part II, Matthews and Allen more prominently feature storytellers. Casper’s story is being told or untold by three different forces. On the surface, King Casper and his comrades are confronting pirates and evil forces to bring about peace. Below that primary plot, the storytellers, Hap, Irek and July, are spinning tales of Casper’s fate. Matthews and Allen cleverly make their epic more robust with these underlying forces at war. The story is thrilling. The characters are intriguing. The adventure is fun. The subtext is complicated.
Do you need to have seen Part I to enjoy Part II? Nope! I saw Part I and I don’t remember a lot of it. I recall I adored Pepper and I know why he ultimately is not back for the sequel. I just don’t recollect the circumstances surrounding his exit. I’m missing some major story chunks from 2012 to 2013. Some of it came back to me during the show but a lot has been lost in time. Regardless, it didn’t affect my being totally engrossed in Part II. And although I’m not completely certain why, I think I loved PART II more than Part I.
“The Iron Stag” was a complicated introduction to this world. Although I found “The Iron Stag” riveting, I was lost in a lot of the detail. I made this recommendation in my review last year: (BIG Suggestion for PART TWO: besides a map, give the audience a study guide with characters and glossary of terms). Honestly, I don’t need to see this large map in the program as much as I want to know who I’m on the quest with. Part II is less monologue intense. There may be less fighting but there is more action. Most of the talented ensemble returns for a well-deserved encore. The dialogue is snappy with plenty of humor especially delivered by newcomers; Blake Montgomery (Boone) and Christopher M. Walsh (Abraham). Although I found “The Crownless King” riveting, I was lost again in the detail. Part II: Deja Vu!
Experiencing opening night with multiple House members in the audience is like being at a party and not getting the insiders’ jokes. I laughed a lot. I was thoroughly engaged in the action. I just only ingested the surface of it all. Among the audience, House members laughed and cheered loudest having had the benefit of thorough knowledge through script reading or creative process. I care about these characters but I’m not invested in them and I want to be.
THE CROWNLESS KING: PART II is an action-packed caper. It’s entertaining as a stand alone piece. For this trilogy to truly be epic, the non-House audience needs to be immersed in this world not just treading water in it.
(BIG Suggestion for PART THREE: besides a map, give the audience a study guide with characters and glossary of terms).
Running Time: Two hours and twenty minutes includes an intermission
At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division Street
Written by Nathan Allen and Chris Matthews
Directed by Nathan Allen
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 7pm
Thru October 20th
Buy Tickets at www.thehousetheatre.com
Production photo courtesy of Michael Brosilow