Fixing King John

This loose and gangly treatment of Shakespeare's history is both remarkably original and fiercely energetic

England's worst king, but he says he's gettin' it together: E. Jason Liebrecht as King John
England's worst king, but he says he's gettin' it together: E. Jason Liebrecht as King John
Courtesy of Bret Brookshire

The Off Center, 2211 Hidalgo
www.rudemechs.com
Through Nov. 24
Running time: 2 hr.

Fixing King John is a theatrical experiment that careens through the evening at highway speed, barreling along through some approximation of the Shakespearean play. There are probably safer speeds at which to travel, but damn, that was fun. Kirk Lynn's adaptation, with direction from Madge Darlington, is loose and gangly in its treatment of the original work. To those at all familiar with Lynn's other writing or the work of several of the cast members, seeing this Rude Mechanicals production is a bit like going to a bar with the company and listening to them duke it out over some idea or theatrical position for the sheer love of the debate. The language of the script is reminiscent of verse, but it freely breaks from any kind of iambic guideline when the content needs a little more room.

The original King John is one of Shakespeare's lesser-known history plays, telling of King John who went to war with King Philip of France. A cardinal whom John has displeased maneuvers against him, using threats of excommunication to turn shaky allies into enemies. There is a lot of death.

Fixing King John also has a lot of death, and a lot of laughs, too. It mashes together several characters and mixes up a number of plot points, but all in the service of what winds up being a remarkably original play. The actors perform in the round and also from various spots in the audience, who sit on varying levels of platforms built for the show. (The program credits Thomas Graves and Darlington with the "Environment.") The costumes (designed by Olivia Warner) are essentially street clothes, with the odd sword or crown thrown in. The overall design is kept simple to allow the play and the actors to dominate.

Fixing King John features one of those strong ensemble performances (including Chronicle Arts Editor Robert Faires as the Bastard) in which you almost hate to cite one actor for good work over any others – but here, there's something about Barbara Chisholm's explosive passion and bloodlust as Constance that's irresistible. To hear Chisholm (who is married to Faires, by the way – small town, eh?) excoriate the male characters and urge them to battle is to get a full blast of womanly rage, lust, and power, and to share some of Chisholm's delight in blasting people with her impressive force.

Fixing King John also permits some moments of quiet thought. Even with the raucous fun of most of the play, these times when the actors are able to say something honest and unadorned are what make Fixing King John the sort of show that sticks with you, days later. It's a fiercely energetic production whose subtler moments give it meaning and beauty.

READ MORE
More Fixing King John
Austin Critics Table Awards 2014
Austin Critics Table Awards 2014
Nominees announced, with top honors to a 'Vibrator', a fixed 'John,' and a merry 'Roll'

Robert Faires, May 9, 2014

More Austin theatre
Making Room to Play
Making Room to Play
Create Space Austin kicks off the drive to secure more performing venues in the city

Elizabeth Cobbe, April 15, 2016

Exibitionism: Road to Nowhere
Detroit
Capital T Theatre's Detroit is a destination worth visiting, but you won't want to live there

Robert Faires, Sept. 5, 2014

More Arts Reviews
Teatro Vivo's <i>EL</i>
Teatro Vivo’s EL
Raul Garza's new play explores the power of the storyteller

Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, Sept. 23, 2016

The Theorists' <i>Hiraeth</i>
The Theorists’ Hiraeth
A sprawling evening of art and community organized by Amy Morrow and company showed the challenge of editing in our age

Jonelle Seitz, Sept. 23, 2016

More by Elizabeth Cobbe
Theatre en Bloc's <i>The Totalitarians</i>
Theatre en Bloc's The Totalitarians
This ridiculous but smart satire about a Nebraska political race may be the only political play that can deliver laughs this election season

Sept. 16, 2016

<i>Hand to God</i> at Hyde Park Theatre
Hand to God at Hyde Park Theatre
Capital T Theatre delivers a fast-paced, funny take on this tale of a demonic hand puppet in a church basement

Sept. 2, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Fixing King John, Austin theatre, Rude Mechanicals, Rude Mechs, Kirk Lynn, Madge Darlington, Thomas Graves, Olivia Warner, Barbara Chisholm, E. Jason Liebrecht, Robert Faires

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)