Laughter, Meter, and War

A prince swaps places with his manservant in order to avoid marriage to a queen and go in search of his love. Only his love is a stable boy. And the queen is a real ball breaker. And back at home, his older brother, King Tater, has started war with everyone despite the alliances his father made. In Duncan Pflaster's Prince Trevor Amongst the Elephants Shakespeare meets Charles Ludlam and the Theater of the Ridiculous meets contemporary politics. The result is a hilarious hour and a half of iambic pentameter, missing manhoods, lost hearts, and political scheming. Like his predecessor Ludlam, Pflaster's work is a pastiche of styles. The rhyme and meter imitates Shakespeare, the epic structure is a nod to Brecht, the utter silliness apes Ludlam and the Theater of the Ridiculous, and the heroic quest structure is similar to that found in all myths. King Kartoffelpuffen has given his kingdom to his oldest son Tater and married his other children off to neighboring kingdoms for peace and political gain. This causes Trevor and Grumbelino, his servant, to switch places, the princess Lana to be separated from her love Geoffrey and blinded in order to marry King Soignee of the Blind Sybarites, and the stable boy, Toby, to kill all the horses and run off. And then there is the pesky Morty, who continually floats across stage to gently remind Trevor that he is going to die. Someday. A lot is going on in the play, but it never feels overwhelmed or crowded, due to its episodic structure. The audience clapped at the end of each episode, making it feel more as if we were watching a series of sketches rather than one unified play.

The verse flows off the actor's tongues as if they were made to speak using rhyming couplets and pentameter. The meter never distracts or obscures what the characters are saying. The ensemble, twelve actors playing 27 roles, is tightly knit. Several had participated in an earlier reading of the show, and there is a real sense of unity and connectedness among them.

Pflaster, as director as well as playwright, makes full use of the bare stage. Entrances and exits come from all sides. It is never unclear where the scene is taking place, despite the lack of scenery.The cast, the director/playwright, and the sound, light, and costume designers come together to paint a descriptive picture at all times.

Its ridiculousness aside, Prince Trevor comes with a message. Pflaster wrote the play because the “re-election of George W. Bush [had angered him].” Echoes of the current president are visible in King Tater, who acts like an insolent little boy in his attempt to grab land and power. The play also makes a case for love of all stripes. Trevor's love for Toby is frowned upon at first, but certain characters warm to it as the play goes on, leading to new acceptances and understandings.

Prince Trevor Amongst the Elephants is a fantastic evening of theater. The play wears its influences well and provides laugh after laugh while jabbing at contemporary politics. Prince Trevor is a good show for anyone who, angered or saddened by the events around them, needs a good laugh.

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