Eugène Ionesco’s Exit the King
The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium
Sunday, September 20
Walnut Street Theatre, Independence Studio on 3Map
King Berenger skips, jumps, sings, and limps from lumbago. He’s the Hugh Hefner of a crumbling kingdom, though this party’s over and the end is here. Ionesco’s absurdist circus: a sparkling, hilariously witty romp, comes to life via the colorful IRC lens. By the minds behind Ionesco’s sold-out Rhinoceros (Fringe 2014).
$15 – $25 / 90 minutes
The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, Philadelphia’s critically-acclaimed theater company known for accessible, buoyant interpretations of classic absurdist works, presents Ionesco’s Absurdist Tragicomedy Exit the King, a “hilarious and poignant comedy about the liveliest death on record” as part of Philadelphia’s Neighborhood Fringe 2015.
First staged on Broadway in 1968, New York Times critic Clive Barnes called Exit the King a “masterpiece…incomparably, Ionesco’s greatest work.” Exit tells the story of megalomaniacal ruler whose incompetence has left his country in near ruin. Despite the efforts of the Queen and the loyal members of his court to help him reconcile his remaining time, he refuses to relinquish control, attend to matters at hand and make peace with his destiny. The play saw few productions in the 40 years following its 1968 premiere until a stunning Broadway production in 2009, directed by Neil Armfield, featuring Geoffrey Rush in the lead role for which he won the Tony Award for Best Actor. The critically-acclaimed revival also featured performers Susan Sarandon, William Sadler, Lauren Ambrose, Andrea Martin and Brian Hutchison.
Exit the King was conceived during a period of illness when the author was consumed with fears of death. The playwright’s inspiration was borne from a childhood obsession that one could avoid being sick and simply live forever: “I told myself that one could learn to die, and that I could learn to die, that one can also help other people to die. This seems to me to be the most important thing we can do, since we’re all of us dying men who refuse to die. This play is an attempt at an apprenticeship in dying.”
Exit the King follows previous sold-out productions of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros (Fringe 2014), The Chairs (Fringe 2009), Franz Kafka’s The Castle (Fringe 2013) and Witold Gombrowicz’s Ivona: Princess of Burgundia (Fringe 2012). Helming the IRC production are Consortium favorites Robb Hutter (Ivona: Princess of Burgundia, Charles Mee’s Paradise Park), Susan Giddings (Jean Giraudoux’s Ondine, Ivona: Princess of Burgundia) and Bob Schmidt (Rhinoceros, Boris Vian’s The Empire Builders, The Chairs), leading an ensemble of 6 performers, including IRC newcomers Patricia Durante, Anna Lou Hearn and Jenna Kuerzi. Producing Artistic Director Tina Brock will direct. The Exit the King design team includes IRC Associate Artistic Director Erica Hoelscher (set and costume design), designer on last year’s sold-out production of Rhinoceros (also set and costumes), and costumes for the majority of IRC productions since 2010. Andrew Cowles (Lighting Design) returns after the IRC’s February 2015 production of George Bernard Shaw’s Misalliance; Tina Brock is the Sound Designer.
Eugène Ionesco (1909 -1994) was a Romanian playwright who spent much of his childhood in Paris. Ionesco’s first play, The Bald Soprano, written in 1950, remains the longest continuously running show in Paris. Over half a century later, the seminal works that earned him a reputation as the “Inventor of the Metaphysical Farce” and “Shakespeare of the Absurd” are enjoying a well-deserved renaissance in New York theaters and around the world. Ionesco writes: “I thought that it was strange to assume that it was abnormal for anyone to be forever asking questions about the nature of the universe, about what the human condition really was, my condition, what I was doing here, if there was really something to do. It seemed to me on the contrary — that it was abnormal for people not to think about it — for them to allow themselves to live, as it were, unconsciously.”
The IRC’s Mission is to bring classic absurdist theatre to an international audience in the Philadelphia region. We are a critically-acclaimed company producing works that explore and illuminate purpose and meaning, promoting reflection about the human condition in a contemporary world. We are committed to producing intelligent, thought-provoking experiences featuring performances that are ironic, humorous, buoyant and infectious. The IRC experience is an exciting and challenging journey for curiosity seekers from all walks of life: philosophical, psychological, physical and spiritual.
Season 2016 marks year ten of bringing rarely-produced gems to Philadelphia area audiences. We invite you to explore with us these questions and more, and share the word with like-minded friends! Since 2006, our loyal and growing IRC audience has been built largely through word of mouth.