Nick Dear’s Power at Theatre in the Round is wonderful. Gifted veteran Lynn Musgrave directs a strong cast in this skillfully written portrayal of, as the saying goes, power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely.
Power, a play written by Nick Dear and directed by Lynn Musgrave. Presented through October 5 by Theatre in the Round, 245 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis. For tickets ($20) and information, see theatreintheround.org.
Dear’s point of attack is dead-on as the play opens at the moment of King Louis XIV’s ascendancy to the throne of France. The twenty-something monarch (Josh Jabas), getting the smell of himself, decides there’ll be no more governing by a royal committee of appointed authorities and advisors: he’ll be king on his own hook, thank you, and anyone who doesn’t like it—including his mom, Anne of Austria (Maggie Bearmon Pistner)—can kiss his profoundly privileged, perennially scented you-know-what. He’s not real good at it in the beginning, vacillating between loyalty to his buddy-cum-about-to-be-prime-minister Nicolas Fouquet (Rob Frankel) and schemers at court who want Fouquet out of their way. Just when it looks like Louis’s innate common sense is about to will out, he opts to go with egotistical, power-mad spite instead, at last taking to political intrigue like a duck to water. The story is driven to a fascinating conclusion.
Jabas deftly effects the transition from relative innocence to ruthless cunning. Pistner brings icy grace to the matriarch watching her control over the crown slip away. Frankel breathes vibrant life into Fouquet, the charming rascal whose spiritedness unwittingly proves his undoing. Completing the cast with winning portrayals are David McMenomy (the king’s foppish brother Philippe), Dann Peterson (conniving accountant Colbert), Rachel Finch (nimble social-climber Henriette) and Jane Froiland (Louise, the king’s fetching lady love).
Playwright Nick Dear is damned good. It isn’t easy to deliver a script in which we’re engaged by and care about the protagonist only to find the supposed antagonist much more likeable and increasingly sympathetic. Dear constructs characters with ingenious subtlety and unerring authenticity. And he has that gift of gifts: immediacy. You needn’t endure sheer drudgery as each character takes a week and a day to speak his or her heart, mind and soul—Dear’s is an economic hand. Instead of conversation stilted by the playwright’s cerebral self-indulgence, dialogue springs from the characters naturally. It doesn’t get any tighter than that. For good measure, Power is a thoroughly human experience, with heroes and villains alike having virtues and flaws. It’s a refreshing occurrence of truth-telling theatre.
Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.
|Also in the Daily Planet, read Dwight Hobbes’s interview with Lynn Musgrave (May 2008).|