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Morning Sun
  • "The Stag King" review

  • In Carlo Gozzi’s “The Stag King,” a king interviews queen candidates with the help of a statue that serves like a magical lie detector. His trusted but treacherous adviser switches souls with him, but a talking parrot puts things right.

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  • In Carlo Gozzi’s “The Stag King,” a king interviews queen candidates with the help of a statue that serves like a magical lie detector. His trusted but treacherous adviser switches souls with him, but a talking parrot puts things right.
    A new adaptation of the Italian fairy tale, presented by Pittsburg State University Theatre, opened Thursday in Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium and will continue at 8 p.m. today and Saturday.
    It is a work in the style of commedia del’arte, a form originated in 16th century Italy that generally makes use of stock characters, with the actors wearing masks.
    That’s the case here, with director Megan Westhoff  teaching her PSU Communication 640 class to make masks for the cast members. They also wear elaborate and colorful costumes to create a striking visual impression.
    Jacob Hacker portrays Deramo, the noble king who has received two gifts from  a powerful magician.
    One of them is a statue that will laugh whenever it hears someone lying. Deramo uses this to interview queen candidates, eliminating over 2,000 of them, in an effort to find a woman who truly loves him. As the play opens, he is making one more attempt to find a bride because he realizes that his kingdom needs an heir to his throne.
    Tartaglia, played by Robert Wilson, is his most trusted advisor. However, overwhelmed with ambition, he threatens to kill his own daughter, Clarice, if she is not chosen by the king. Clarice, played by Marisa Hunn, is actually in love with Leandro, played by Nathen Goff.
    Angela, played by Natalie Black, does truly love the king for his fine character and she, of course, passes the statue test. Tartaglia is furious when he hears the news, not only because he wanted the power of being the king’s father-in-law, but also because he desires Angela.
    The villain learns that the magician’s other gift to the king is a spell that will enable the switching of souls into another body. During a hunt in a magical forest, he manages to switch the king’s soul into the body of a stag, and his own soul into the king’s body. In that way, Tartaglia will be king and also Angela’s husband.
    Hacker and Wilson do an impressive job of switching character portrayals.
    But Tartaglia’s plot doesn’t work, because Angela notices that, while the king looks the same, his character has become totally different.
    Meanwhile, Tartaglia offers a reward for anyone who kills the stage containing the king’s soul, but the king has managed to switch his soul from the stag into the body of an old man murdered by Tartaglia. In this body, the king returns to the palace and talks to Angela, who recognizes him as her beloved husband.
    Page 2 of 2 - Together they seek to set things right, and Durandarte, in the guise of a parrot, helps bring about the happy ending.
    Kimberly Arzoian has a nice turn as Smeraldina, desperate to become queen and, when she’s rejected by the king, desperate to find any husband at all. Logan Qualls is a bird catcher and her former suitor. Micah Black is Brighella, the king’s steward;  Austin VanBecelaere is Cigolotti and a guard, with Rashid Fielder-Bey picture perfect as Pantalone, Angela’s doddering old daddy. Elle Walker is the magic statue and also the King Stag, while Sam Hardy is Durandarte, the magician.
    Director Westhoff worked many months to create the new adaptation of the play, going back to original sources. The show, which only runs about 90 minutes, is done without an intermission.
    Lisa Quinteros did an outstanding job of  designing costumes, with Doug Bennett in charge of scenic design, Linden Little doing the lighting design and Jeanine Kunshek and Jason Huffman in charge of sound design.
    Tickets, available at the door, are $10 for the general public and $6 for those under 17 and over 65. Tickets are free for PSU students with a valid ID.
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