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  King Charles III at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

King Charles III

Chicago Shakespeare Theater
800 East Grand Avenue Chicago

Called "the most insightful and engrossing new history play in decades" by The New York Times and "bracingly provocative and outrageously entertaining" by The Independent, Bartett's compelling new comedy-drama blurs the line between truth and tragedy. In the aftermath of the death of England's present-day monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles ascends to the throne. His first official act is to rubberstamp Parliament's bill restricting freedom of the press, but Charles refuses in a provocative act of conscience. England is thrown into crisis, absurdly escalating with tanks guarding the palace gates. In the midst of plays for power, how will Charles rule over his once-united kingdom? Written in blank verse and sprinkled with rousing soliloquies and rhyming couplets, King Charles III invokes the heightened stakes of Shakespeare's greatest works in an inventive present-day setting.

Thru - Jan 15, 2017

Price: $48-$88

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 312-595-5600

Running Time: 2hrs, 30mins; one intermission

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  King Charles III Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...Mike Bartlett's formidably crafted play "King Charles III" is one of those juicy dramas based on a big, audacious, outrageous idea: What if, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the ascendancy of the long-frustrated Prince of Wales, the new King Charles III decided that he wanted to meddle in the affairs of his own Parliament and refuse to sign a dodgy bill duly passed by the democratically elected representatives of the British people?"
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Chris Jones

Daily Herald - Highly Recommended

"...Directed with wit and increasing tension by Gary Griffin, Bartlett's "future history play" speculates on what happens after England's Queen Elizabeth II dies and Prince Charles ascends the throne. Written in 2014, before the United Kingdom elected to leave the European Union and the United States elected Donald Trump, Bartlett's shrewd, dazzling play imagines a new monarch bucking tradition in a way that sends the nation into paroxysms."
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Barbara Vitello

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...Best known to American audiences as Sir Anthony Strallan from Downton Abbey, Robert Bathurst neatly embodies the dignified confusion of an honorable but crucially limited man who requires a hell of an awakening before he'll understand his place in the world. He's surrounded, in Gary Griffin's well-paced staging, by an army of Chicago's better actors."
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Tony Adler

Windy City Times - Highly Recommended

"...Audiences in the United States have less of a stake in Bartlett's grim prophesy ( for the record, Elizabeth II continues healthy and robust at age 90 ), a factor not lost on savvy director Gary Griffin, whose technical team serves up a sumptuous production, replete with spectacle and soliloquies stitched together by an incidental score ranging from Elger to The Clash. Robert Bathurst leads an ensemble of actors navigating Eva Breneman and Kathryn Walsh's impeccable speeches with a verbal expertise creating characters whose difficult choices arouse our immediate sympathies. In the end, duty triumphs, but romantics can still hope for Alec Manley Wilson's Harry to follow the promptings of his heart, much as his predecessors-his father and Uncle Andrew included-did, not so many years ago."
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Mary Shen Barnidge

Chicago On the Aisle - Somewhat Recommended

"...The play itself sets forth an intriguing twist on the ever-receding kingship of Prince Charles. In Barlett's narrative, the queen has died and Charles' coronation is seen as essentially pro forma. Meanwhile, Parliament proceeds with its work making laws and, even before he can be enthroned, Charles must affix the royal signature to each new statute. But the very first one that comes under his pen spells the curtailing of freedom of the press. While no one has felt the gossipy sting of the British press more keenly than the royal family, Charles hesitates to sign a law that seems to fly in the face of a fundamental tenet of democracy. Indeed, he won't set his hand to it."
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Lawrence B. Johnson

Stage and Cinema - Recommended

"...Bartlett is skillful at fleshing out this clash of wills, with challenged loyalists like the Speaker of the House and chief of defense (Lawrence Grimm), royal press secretary (Jonathan Weir), and head cop (Sam Pearson) caught in the crossfire (specifically a tank strategically placed outside the palace). By play's sensational end Bartlett questions the value of the crown itself."
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Lawrence Bommer

ChicagoCritic - Recommended

"...In a true Chicago Shakespeare tradition, King Charles III reminds us of the skilled productions of The Bard's plays in that this work has fine actors, a well-written script and a timely plot that reflects the "it could happen' trend in both British and American politics. Plus King Charles III is a worthy play."
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Tom Williams

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...Being the 30th Anniversary for Chicago Shakespeare Theater, why not do this play on their stage? Since it is a special production, one that deserves a very delicate touch, why not have Gary Griffin handle the direction? If theater audiences could have a wish come true on a stage, this could easily be just that. Griffin has assembled a dynamite cast to bring this new comedy/drama to its stage. Bartlett's storyline blurs the line between truth and tragedy and brings the lives of these famous people to a new standard, taking them off the pedestal that their country (and ours as well) has placed them on."
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Alan Bresloff

NewCity Chicago - Recommended

"...Drawing on a true and truly deplorable manipulation of power on the part of the media, Bartlett uses the stage to question the legitimacy of the inverted pyramid of power known as democracy while never taking the absurdities of tradition for granted. As per the change makers of his country (and elsewhere...), "King Charles III" concludes that they are, for better or for worse, just like us."
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Kevin Greene

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...This inventive drama imagines the chaos that could take place upon the death of England's popular Queen Elizabeth II. The play makes the Royal Family feel like real people, and not just figureheads. They're individuals we can understand and care about. Mike Bartlett's play, which is modeled upon Shakespeare's dramatic histories, written in verse, containing theatrical soliloquies, ghosts and taut family conflicts; but the drama is contemporary and accessible, too. It also smacks of what most Americans are feeling following the recent election. This production's also laced with unexpected humor amid its moving, dramatic story, particularly as directed by gifted Chicago and international director, Gary Griffin. His talented ensemble portrays both England's kings and commoners, led by Robert Bathurst as Charles, the heir to the throne. It's a majestic production of a glorious play that speaks strongly to the concerns of Americans today."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Recommended

"..."King Charles III" succeeds, at least for me, more as a family battle for power, a battle that doesn't gain dramatic traction until fairly late in the play. But even in its wordiest patches, the attentive spectator can admire Bartlett's blank verse, always literate and accessible and never pretentious. Indeed, much of the time the actors seem to be talking in normal modern cadences. The verse rarely calls attention to itself except in its sly wit and humor. I can only speculate on how much more effective this show would be in front of a hip English audience in a London playhouse."

Dan Zeff

The Fourth Walsh - Highly Recommended

"...I thoroughly enjoyed CHARLES III. It illustrates the Royals in a personable yet untouchable way. When Bathurst utters 'I don't want to be alone', the weightiness of the moment is consuming. He's proud and desperate and angry and vulnerable and King. The glimpse at the humanity behind the Crown is fascinating. CHARLES III is a regal behind-the-throne musing. The exploration of the British kerfuffle is a nice, short escape from our American calamity."
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Katy Walsh

Third Coast Review - Recommended

"...King Charles III is a thoughtful drama (with comic lines) about the nature of law and constitutionality and father-son relationships. Director Gary Griffin takes Bartlett’s carefully shaped story and brings out its drama, compassion and relevance to the day’s events. The 2.5 hour play will leave you with plenty to discuss about leadership and democracy."
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Nancy Bishop

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   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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