Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Madness of George III

by Alan Bennett

On Wednesday last I attended the Chicago Shakespeare production of Alan Bennett's play The Madness of George III.  It was the best play of the season at Chicago Shakespeare from my vantage point.  Starting with the tremendous performance by Harry Groener in the lead role everything was outstanding for the afternoon dramatic performance.  The direction of Penny Metropulos, the ensemble, the set and the music came together for a delightful afternoon of comedy.  It certainly helps to start with the words of Alan Bennett, which were presented perfectly.  
Focusing on some historical facts regarding King George III (infamous in America for presiding over our independence and in Britain for the loss of the colonies), Bennett created a play focusing on the question that had arisen of need for a regent as the symptoms of his disease made him appear to be going mad.  With the political machinations of the the Whigs and Tories in Parliament and the desire of his eldest son to control the throne, the suspense built throughout.  The addition of courtiers, court doctors and his loyal Queen provide a mix of relationships that were a bounteous source for comic developments.  

I enjoyed seeing fine performances from familiar actors including Kevin Gudahl, Erik Hellman and Alex Weisman.  But I relished those by actors new to me including Richard Baird as the Prince of Wales and Nathan Hosner as William Pitt.  The music of Handel was present throughout and added to my enjoyment.  There are few playwrights that can present comedy through the delight of witty wordplay any better than Alan Bennett.  Thanks to Chicago Shakespeare for this production.

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