Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

King Charles III
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Sweeney Todd, Watch on the Rhine and The Gin Game

Harry Smith, Robert Joy, and Michelle Beck
Photo by Kevin Berne
Who else but the Shakespeare Theatre Company could produce the Washington premiere of Mike Bartlett's neo-Shakespearean play King Charles III? Using blank verse (though the language is contemporary), Bartlett's riveting "future history play" considers what will happen when Queen Elizabeth II dies and Prince Charles (Robert Joy) finally ascends the British throne.

The drama hinges on a royal prerogative not well known in the U.S.: legislation passed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords cannot become law without the signature of the monarch. While this is considered a formality, the real Prince of Wales is outspoken and has no problem expressing his opinions, which Bartlett sees as potentially leading to a parliamentary crisis.

Director David Muse helps the audience navigate through the channels of power. While the monarch traditionally meets each week with the prime minister, Charles decides he should also hear from the leader of the opposition. When he is told about a proposed law that could limit the freedom of the press, he refuses to be swayed by purely political—or personal—concerns and is determined to make his own decisions.

The play also follows the rest of the family. Prince William (Christopher McLinden), sleek and self-possessed, wonders what his role will be, while Kate (Allison Jean White) is determined to be her husband's partner. Camilla (Jeanne Paulsen) tries to give Charles the support he needs. Prince Harry (Harry Smith) learns about the world outside the royal bubble with the help of Jessica (Michelle Beck), an art student, and a familiar ghost (Chiara Motley) wanders the halls.

This production has already been seen at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater and Seattle Repertory Theatre. The cast members are comfortable in their roles and as an ensemble, from Joy's thoughtfulness and caution in wielding power to McLinden's polished veneer and confidence, White's quietly expressed ambition, and Smith's emotional swings.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
In association with American Conservatory Theater and Seattle Repertory Theatre
King Charles III
February 7th - March 12th, 2017
By Mike Bartlett
King Charles III: Robert Joy
Camilla: Jeanne Paulsen
Prince William: Christopher McLinden
Kate: Allison Jean White
Prince Harry: Harry Smith
James Reiss: Dan Hiatt
Prime Minister Evans: Ian Merrill Peakes
Spencer, Kebab Seller and others: Rafael Jordan
Cootsy, Sir Michael and others: Jefferson Farber
Jessica: Michelle Beck
Mr. Stevens: Bradford Farwell
Ghost, Newspaper Woman and others: Chiara Motley
Speaker of the House, Sir Gordon and others: Tim Getman
Ensemble: Yesenia Iglesias, Matthew Aldwin McGee
Directed by David Muse
Harman Center for the Arts, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or

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