>A King and No King

>My dash to catch all three of this season’s repertoire at Shenandoah Shakespeare continued last night; I saw their production of A King and No King, written by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher in 1611. The play tells the story of moody Arbaces, King of Iberia, who goes to war with Armenia for the hell of it, captures the Armenian king, Tigranes, and then plans to marry off his sister Panthea to the guy. (Imagine George Bush fixing up his sister with Saddam Hussein . . .) The reason for the match is that Arbaces loves his sister too well and, in fact, when he sees her after many years, is overcome with lust. Brother and sister nearly consummate their love, but remain steadfast (she’s repeatedly called a virgin; no mention is made of the King’s own experience) until the last act when it is revealed that Arbaces isn’t really Panthea’s brother, it was all a big misunderstanding, that she is the true Queen of Iberia and when they marry, he’ll be King after all. They send Tigranes home, no hard feelings. Keep in touch. Let’s do lunch.

It is typical Elizabethan fare, but is mostly very serious stuff, except for the hilarious braggart Captain Bessus, who is funnier than Falstaff. The production was excellent, as usual. As Arbaces, Eric Schoen was fantastic. He’s been in the company for a year and he’s performed well, but he truly shone in this part. John Harrell, as Bessus, is consistently good, with wonderful comic timing. He could move directly from Shenandoah Shakespeare to SNL.

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