Tender yet Sinister: 'King John' Up Close at Underground Collaborative
Shakespearian family drama radiates from the tight studio theater stage of the Underground Collaborative as Voices Found Repertory presents The Life and Death of King John.
Ambition, aggression and tragedy wear ties and sport coats in a crisp, contemporary haze. Brandon Judah plays King John of England. He has a tenderness about him that makes for an interesting contrast to the character’s more sinister side. Claire Tidwell cuts a powerful figure as his sternly wise mother, Eleanor. Drama between England and France entangles and unravels amid the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, represented here by a vividly complex Sarah Zapiain as Cardinal Pandulph who has an intricate grasp of the cleric’s sharply nuanced intellect.
The mood of the production sometimes slips out of sync with the mood of the script. In this modern interpretation, we have the king occasionally reaching for his smartphone to play music that doesn’t necessarily fit the scene. Sometimes this works, though: King John’s perspective is out of synch with the world he’s in, and the music he chooses strikes the proper discord. It’s an interesting contrast, and it occasionally works quite well, but when it fails to connect it can be more than a little jarring.
There are a few notably intense moments in the winding tapestry of the drama; chief among them, an order to murder a youth. Hubert (Nick Hurtgen) is heartbreakingly soft spoken as he begins to carry out the murder of a young nobleman. The silence in that scene has a dizzying gravity about it.
Through July 22 at Underground Collaborative, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave. For further information, visit voicesfoundrep.com.