By Nathan Allen & Chris Mathews
Produced by The House Theatre of Chicago
At Chopin Theatre, Chicago
Ambitious fantasy epic is pure vintage House Theatre at their best
The first part of Nathan Allen and Chris Mathews’ new trilogy, The Iron Stag King: Part One is a complex epic of crowns and country using elements of the King Arthur and Norse mythology with sprinkles of American fable themes. Utilizing all the House stylistic elements including puppets, miniature models, strong lighting, unique costumes with ample sprinklings of humor, this story has richly layered storytelling that explores the nature of leadership, governance with the unique American struggle to balance personal liberty with actions for the common good of society.
We meet the boy heir, Casper Kent (Brandon Ruiter) raised as a farmer yet destined to be king with the help of an old storyteller Hap the Golden (Cliff Chamberlain). Hap insists that Casper is the rightful heir to a single throne which will unite the land. Casper is the only one who can stop the murderous and destructive forces of Henley Hawthorne (Joey Steakley). We witness young Casper has he, under the leadership of Hap the Golden, escapes the clutches of Hawthorne with the help of a quirky group of compatriots including a two-gunned fellow, a bow & arrow yielding woman, a mighty warrior and a funny servant/photographer.
This determined group must escape the clutches of Hawthrone and journey to the ancient city so Casper can lift the magical hammer to become king thus uniting the land. This fast paced and complex story has minsters, loads of sword fighting and gun play as the battles and killings mount. Intertwining medieval myth with political maneuvering and replete with magic, dragons, wolves, Casper’s adventures become a quest for right where power is masked as democracy and deceit and betrayal loom.
One of the many elements nicely accomplished by the creatives at The House Theatre are the fine blend of rich storytelling with empathetic, often humorous, characters including a most obnoxious villain and a host of colorful characters. The cast is energetic, deft at stage combat and fully engaged in their characters. This makes for a fun hero’s journey that captivates us throughout. Cliff Chamberlian, as Hap and Joey Steakley as Hawthorne anchor a cast that includes funny work by Ben Hertel as Pepper and empathetic work from Brandon Ruiter as Casper. We are on the edge of our seats in anticipation of the next wild happening. As with most House Theatre shows, The Iron Stag King is a High Fantasy work that takes us into a unique world where the good guys and the evil ones are not as obvious as we thing; where alliances and friends may not be as loyal as expected. This adds up to a highly successful and stimulating fun evening of theatre. With odes to R.R.martin, Tolkein and Dungeons & Dragons, Allen and Mathews have written a complex, yet free-flowing adventure that delivers. The two hour plus journey is a fun romp through myth and fantasy. You’ll be cheering Casper.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: September 9, 2012
For more info checkout The Iron Stage King; Part One at theatreinchicago.com
At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St., Chicago, IL, call 773-769-3832, www.thehousetheatre.com, tickets $25, $10 student & Industry rush tickets, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours, 25 minutes with intermission, through October 21, 2012