A poignant adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s tale, The King and Queen of the Universe, produced by Slippers and Rum, tells a story of adulation and bereavement set in the depths of the Great Depression. More importantly, it constitutes an investigation into such themes as wealth disparity and counter-revolutionary societal stigmas.
The play is centered around Anne and Henry, two soon to be engaged young socialites from privileged backgrounds. After some strained dancing on a celebratory night commemorating Anne’s nineteenth birthday, a midnight whim takes the couple on a shortcut through the park on their way home. By chance, the couple met a stuttering, young unemployed chemist named Stanley, who takes the opportunity to bring them back to his decrepit apartment which he shares with his sickly mother, portrayed by Laura Waldren. Perhaps the smallest part, nonetheless, she delivered a solid performance, developing an affinity and empathy with the audience. Sent by their indignant, pompous, and arrogant parents, the police burst in and Stanley’s mother succumbs to death in all the excitement. There were particularly strong performances by Sam Curry (Henry) who delivered a powerfully emotional soliloquy, and Quentin Beroud who thoroughly embodied the pompous demeanor of Henry’s father. After Henry’s epiphany, the duo frequently clash, highlighting their acute materialist differences; how can people stand by apathetically and watch in a world in which so many suffer? As Henry spirals into a period of deep introspection, the production makes no secret in its attempts to meet head on the inconvenient truths regarding capitalism and the wide-ranging socio-economic divide. This effect was augmented by the largely barren stage and lack of props.
What follows is a saga about Henry’s growing dissatisfaction with the status quo and his parents’ perceived lack of empathy for society as a whole. A test of consciences in which moral quandaries abound, The King and Queen of the Universe is about not making the same mistakes and necessarily following the path of one’s parents, simply because society dictates it to be so. Despite its meager and rather abrupt ending which some may rightly argue augments its distinctly realist flavour, it is a powerful act that exploits the potentiality and power of an epiphany, yet manages to remain entertaining throughout.