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‘The King Stag’ deals with age-old good vs. evil

Mary Burkin

“The King Stag” is an amazingly apt fairy tale for our time,

considering it was written in the 18th century. Back in the days of

commedia dell’arte, when author Carlo Gozzi was alive, children’s

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fables were genuinely scary.

The villain or villainess was capable of every cruelty --

poisoning, dismemberment, torture -- leaving the hero or heroine

defenseless, save for the guaranteed but improbable intervention of a

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completely unexpected event. “The King Stag” is no exception to that

rule.

So we find our hero, good King Deramo of Serendippo, still

searching for a virtuous bride, having rejected 2,748 so far. He’s

aided in his search by a magic statue, which comes to life in a

variety of smiles and guffaws depending on just how many lies each

prospective bride might tell.

Angela, a beautiful commoner truly in love with the king, handily

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passes the 20-questions test. This foils the evil plotting of

Tartaglia, the king’s minister, whose furiously stuttered asides

(“Arsenic? Why not?”) let us know the king was supposed to marry his

daughter, Clarice, and leave Angela to satisfy his beastly lust.

Director Joe Graves does a fine job of keeping up the pace needed

to maintain the interest of young and old alike. He ambitiously

combines the broadness of the commedia style with the elegance of

costumes, sets and movement inspired by the Chinese Opera, even if

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the two styles don’t always mix.

The cast is uniformly fine, with several standouts. Stephen

Rockwell comes maleficently to life once his King Deramo takes on a

darker persona. Clearly, being evil is more fun, but then, why else

would you want to be evil anyway?

Conversely, William Dennis Hunt’s Tartaglia finds beautiful depths

of passion once a finer spirit inhabits his body.

Special mention also goes to Jill Hill, as both Tartaglia’s

faithful daughter, Clarice, and the inelegantly hilarious Smeraldina.

These ancient tales hold little resemblance to today’s safe and

sanitized visits with talking dinosaurs. No matter how mild or how

graphic the violence may be (and in this case, the violence is toned

down for a more general audience), the issue remains the same -- what

should we do to remain kind and honest and alive, in a world where

people can be so mean and false and deadly?

And what better place to ask that question than in a fairy tale?


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