BWW Reviews: KINGS OF ISRAEL a Provocative Addition to the KC Fringe Festival
The Kings of Israel an original play by Schaeffer Nelson is playing at the Phosphor Studio in Kansas City. Phil Kinen directed the production in conjunction with the KC Fringe Festival. The festival brings performing arts, visual arts, and dance together for 11 days, giving local artists, performers, and writers an uncensored presentation of their work.
This controversial production is set in Israel in 1050's BC and deals with the relationship developed between the Prophet Samuel, King Saul, and David the second King of Israel. The producers point out that the show includes sex (tastefully performed), violence, and adult language and is not suitable for children. A playwright's note also stresses for historical authenticity all of the characters were of North African or Middle Eastern descent, and not white men of European descent as portrayed in the production. Nelson's interpretation of the Old Testament is intriguing and yet to some may be a little shocking.
The Prophet Samuel contacts David, while he is tending his sheep, and convinces him that King Saul must give up the throne. Samuel anoints David as the second King of Israel before David descends the mountain and enters the city to win King Saul's favor. Samuel sends David to play his musical instrument for the king who suffers from headaches. As time marches on the king befriends David and they grow to an intimate relationship. When King Saul discovers that Samuel sent David to replace him on the throne David must flee the city to survive.
Joshua Gleeson is magnificent as the Prophet Samuel. Gleeson shows a wonderful sense of comedic timing, delivering humorous quips and lines with sarcastic undertones that cause the audience to erupt in laughter. I looked forward to each time that Samuel appeared on stage.
Michael Hudgens portrays the frightened, paranoid King Saul who has fallen out of grace with God. Hudgens gives a powerful performance, speaking softly to David before flying into a rage about what David has done or said. J. Will Fritz does a good job as David, but his performance lacks the intensity that Gleeson and Hudgens bring to their characters.
Kings of Israel is a unique production and a wonderful addition to the KC Fringe Festival. If you plan to attend the production, you will need three things: a ticket (purchase at the door or on the KC Fringe Festival website), a Fringe button, and an open mind. Photograph courtesy of Schaeffer Nelson.