King Phycus Rules The Hollywood Fringe

Belen Greene as MacBetty, Patrick Wenk-Wolff as King Phycus. Photos by Alexandra Goodman.

Shakespeare. It’s not just for highbrows anymore. You can be sure of that when you see The Flynnsmen present Shakespeare’s King Phycus at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. What may have once scared off those less familiar with Shakespeare’s plays for fear of not understanding the language is now made completely and hilariously accessible to everyone.

In a little over an hour, the play extracts scenes, characters, and memorable moments from Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies such as Hamlet, King Lear, Romeo & Juliet, Richard III, and Julius Caesar, and brilliantly crafts a wacky new tale with more belly laughs than you thought you had in you. Director John Apicella and Abby Wilde have truncated the longer Tom Willmorth play to fit the Fringe schedule retaining all of the original’s verve and vitality. Jacob Sidney and Crystal Keith are responsible for the original music. 

Six actors race through the iambic pentameter text with remarkable authority and skill, barely stopping to catch their breath between character changes as the parody of epic proportions plays out. Patrick Wenk-Wolff’s Phycus is a Lear-alike whose family includes his children Hamlet (Jason Thomas in a crazy interpretation of the young Dane) and Juliet (a very silly Abby Wilde), and a dead wife Gertrude (whose ghost will return on the wall before the night is out). Hamlet is married to MacBetty (Belen Greene), a sexy Scottish lass sporting a brogue as thick as black pudding and Juliet is engaged to the hunchback Gloucester (Buck Zachary), a situation that makes her run for the barf bag every time he comes near her. What a set-up, right?

Spoofing the source material requires large doses of shtick generously applied with the utmost precision, both in language and physicality, to make it all work and this cast is on fire! Drew Doyle has two of the funniest and most recognizable bits – an Abbott & Costello “Who’s on First” routine with Wenk-Wolff and a Music Man parody with Greene and Thomas that recreates the Rock Island opening, better known as the “Whaddya Talk” sequence. Apicella’s direction snaps each warped puzzle piece into place as the action gallops apace to the play’s hilariously tragic climax.

King Phycus

L to R: Belen Greene (MacBetty), Drew Doyle as Friar Don, Abby Wilde as Juliet, Jason Thomas as Romeo, Patrick Wenk-Wolff as King Phycus, and Buck Zachary as Gloucester.

Juliet wears her balcony, stage combat with a banana, a pineapple and two baguettes, parodies of “O for a Muse of fire,” “To be or not to be,” the St. Crispin’s day speech, and a ping pong ball eye that pops out of a blind man’s face give you an idea the kind of lunacy that takes place in this irreverent little tale. And in true Shakespearean fashion, everyone dies at the end, but these bodies will rise to live another day, at least in the afterlife of a Michael Jackson Thriller finale.

Ellen Dostal
Shakespeare in LA

SHAKESPEARE’S KING PHYCUS
Lillian Theatre
1076 Lillian Way
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Tickets: http://hff13.org/1340

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