Play Review: PSU’s The King Stag (2012)
‘Stag’ funny, despite cliches, 3.5/5 stars
Carl J. Bachus | Collegio Writer
ollegio.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/DSC_0220-234×300.jpg” alt=”Kimberly Arzoian, playing Smeraldina, and Logan Qualls, playing Truffaldino, during the dress rehersal for the play King's Stag on Tuesday, Oct. 16th.” title=”Kimberly Arzoian, playing Smeraldina, and Logan Qualls, playing Truffaldino, during the dress rehersal for the play King's Stag on Tuesday, Oct. 16th.” width=”234″ height=”300″ class=”size-medium wp-image-3995″ /> Kimberly Arzoian, playing Smeraldina, and Logan Qualls, playing Truffaldino, during the dress rehersal for the play King’s Stag on Tuesday, Oct. 16th.
Adapting fairy tales to the stage can be tricky. It’s often a challenge to bring the depth theater commands to stories that are known for outlandish plots and two-dimensional characters. This is especially evident in Pitt State’s fall production of “The King Stag,” directed by Megan Westhoff. The cast performs the script ably utilizing commedia dell’arte, an Italian form of theater that uses masks to represent stock characters, in this retelling of the classical German fairy tale.
The production relies heavily on over-the-top styles of comedy, like slapstick and vaudeville. The performances range from hilarious to strange, with the actors trying their best to bring a sense of bravado to the otherwise dull fairy-tale characters. The only thing holding the production back seems to be the flatness of the characters. This is not to disrespect the work of writer-director Westhoff, but she didn’t have much to work with given the source material. Most of the character motivations were clear, but some characters simply floated around with dialogue specifically geared to move the simple plot along.
The cast played each character to the best of their abilities, noticeably trying to transcend the issues that come with playing, not only fairy tale tropes, but clichéd stock characters. Jacob Hacker, playing the titular “King” Deramo, uses a wide variety of gestures to animate his character. He was the only one with any real character development. Robert Wilson, as the villainous Tartaglia, went as far over the top with his villain as he could, simultaneously benefitting and harming his performance. If the goal is to completely dislike the character, which is often the case with commedia dell’arte villains, then the mission was accomplished. But, in this critic’s opinion, the play’s saving grace is the spot-on comedic timing of Smeraldina and Truffadlino, portrayed by Kimberly Arzoian and Logan Qualls respectively. They were surprise delights that deserved more stage time than they got.
The tech production was one of the highlights of the night. Commedia dell’arte traditionally involves making masks and the production’s masks, crafted under Westhoff’s direction, were superb. Each mask was completely different and fairly indicative of the characters wearing them. The costumes were fantastically vibrant, interesting and detailed. The sets, though leaving a lot to the imagination, were functional and served their purpose.
Elle Walker, playing the marked stag, and Jacob Hacker, playing Deramo, during the dress rehersal for the play King’s Stag on Tuesday, Oct. 16th.
“The King Stag” is an example of two forms of art, commedia dell’arte and fairy tales, being thrown together and not exactly meshing. The production, though not without flaws, is balanced and well-performed, especially given the two-dimensional characters that come with the territory.