A modern story with Shakespearean style, ‘King Charles III’ an epic and personal family drama at Pasadena Playhouse through Sun., Dec. 3

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King Charles III is a modern story set in the not too distant future, yet the riveting production is presented in a classic Shakespearean style, on stage at Pasadena Playhouse through Sunday, December 3.

Dylan Saunders and Sarah Hollis in “King Charles III” directed by Michael Michetti.

“It is a powerful play that is relevant today, exploring issues that we see in the news every night,” explained director Michael Michetti. “Among the points that are made are the dangers of limiting the freedom of the press, the difficulties that come with political transitions, the struggles between the branches of government, and the potential for constitutional crisis when confidence in our leaders fail. It is a political thriller, but at its core King Charles III is a family drama.”

It is the British Royal Family at the center of the “future history” fictional tale written by Olivier Award-winning playwright Mike Bartlett, who weaves an intriguing premise into the question, “What happens once the Queen is dead?”

The story starts as Prince Charles (Jim Abele) ascends to the throne, after a lifetime of wanting it, but a power struggle arises. The characters that surround him include Camilla (Laura Gardner), Prince William (Adam Haas Hunter), daughter-in-law Kate (Meghan Andrews) and Prince Harry (Dylan Saunders). Also in the mix are Harry’s love interest Jess (Sarah Hollis), the Prime Minister (J. Paul Boehmer), Press Secretary Reiss (Mark Capri), the opposition leader Stevens (Carie Kawa), and the “Ghost” of the people’s princess (Nike Doukas).

Jim Abele in Pasadena Playhouse’s production of “King Charles III” through Dec. 3.
Photos by Jenny Graham.

As in Shakespeare, playwright Bartlett cleverly uses both blank verse and prose. “That elevates the play into something special,” praised Michetti. “Our brilliant cast features many skilled Shakespearean performers who add to the integrity of the piece.”

The British Royals have always been intriguing and this fictional play allows us to go behind closed doors to see them as a family with personal problems compounded by their duty to save the monarchy. The political stakes are high and having the emotionally charged drama framed with a Shakespearean tone makes King Charles III a gripping tale worthy of The Bard himself.

This is the second production of the 2017/18 Centennial Season of Pasadena Playhouse, the State Theater of California, which also serves as Producer/Artistic Director Danny Feldman’s inaugural season. “We thought King Charles III a most fitting play for our Centennial Season,” Feldman said. “This Oliver Award-winning, Tony-nominated play has one foot deeply planted in the Shakespearean tradition and another foot in the future. It’s a great nod to our history as we became the State Theater of California in 1937 when Pasadena Playhouse performed the entire canon of Shakespeare’s plays. And thematically, the play feels more contemporary and relevant than when it first premiered just two years ago.”

Director Michael Michetti previously helmed Mamet’s A Life in the Theatre starring Hal Holbrook at Pasadena Playhouse. He’s also been busy directing Mrs. Warren’s Profession at A Noise Within, and in February he has A Streetcar Named Desire at The Theatre @ Boston Court, where he is co-artistic director.

King Charles III also features an original score recorded by the Pasadena Master Chorale, led by chorale director Jeffrey Bernstein.

“King Charles III” runs through Sunday, December 3 at Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Ave. in Pasadena. For tickets call (626) 356-7529 or visit PasadenaPlayhouse.org.

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