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Theater review: 'A Wither's Tale' at the Falcon

August 30, 2010 |  6:30 pm

Withers Renowned for their hilarious couplings of contemporary rock music with classic texts, the Troubadour Theater Company is a local treasure that has an avid following, including this reviewer. Yet in “A Wither’s Tale,” their latest offering at the Falcon, the company seems uncharacteristically reflective, even a bit downbeat.

If you know the Troubies, that’s a departure akin to watching Carrot Top as Hamlet. But the unaccustomed seriousness is at least partly due to the source material.  

Initially labeled a comedy, Shakespeare’s elegiac oddity was later reclassified a romance by puzzled scholars. But the play, which treats a paranoiac king’s imprisonment of his blameless wife and attempted murder of his infant daughter, defies categorization. Although the proceedings eventually segue into a lighter tone, complete with a happy ending that is one of the more spectacularly contrived in the Shakespearean canon, the play hardly seems likely fodder for big yocks. Nor does Bill Withers’ bluesy/mellow music (“Ain’t No Sunshine,” "Lean On Me"), which doesn’t afford obvious opportunities for this company to rock out.

“Withers” seems like a palate cleanser after the group’s “CHiPS: The Musical,” the flat-out laugh riot that preceded this production.  However, under the ever-astute direction of Matt Walker, what emerges is surprisingly solid Shakespeare, delivered with a twinkle and an occasional guffaw. Musical director Eric Heinly helms the terrific on stage band, while among the crack cast company stalwarts Walker, Beth Kennedy and Lisa Valenzuela do typically fine work.  Feline-faced Katherine Malak also stands out, from the very moment she bursts on the stage in a tumbling pratfall that would do a Ringling-trained clown proud.  

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“A Wither’s Tale," Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank. 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays.  Ends Sept. 26. $34.50 to $42. (818) 955-8101. www.FalconTheatre.com.  Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo: Brandon Breault and Katherine Malak. Credit: Chelsea Sutton.

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