A2 does Shakespeare’s “King Phycus”

We asked cast member Buck Zachary to talk to us a little about Shakespeare’s “King Phycus” by Tom Willmorth, opening tomorrow night as the next installment of A2 Last Call for Theater.  We asked the questions, he crafted the answers, we checked for typos and grammatical errors, he expressed his dismay at our lack of faith in his syntax skills… and now we leave it to you to make of the play what you will.

**Please note:  the original Shakespeare’s “King Phycus” is a full length entertainment with an intermission… which we amorally (and potentially lethally) hacked to pieces for our own evil purposes… with the reluctant yet game permission of the playwright.  Read the original.  It has all the good bits.**

AC: Tell us about the play, and your part(s) in it?

Buck Zachary NOT in costume (no, he is). Photo by Holly Abel

BZ: I’ve been describing Shakespeare’s “King Phycus” to people as “Shakespeare via Mel Brooks” (which I hope Mr. Willmorth would take as the highest compliment).  It throws several of The Bard’s most recognizable characters into a blender with a healthy scoop of wackiness and dumps it all out on the stage.  It manages both reverence and irreverence in the most delightful way.  We have six actors playing upwards of thirty roles.  There’s kings, ghosts, lovers, clowns, epic battles, live music, a play within a play, mistaken identities, plenty of mayhem.  I have the distinct pleasure of switching back and forth between Brutus, Richard of Gloucester, Goldenberg (think Guildenstern), and the Earl of… ahem…  Athol.

AC: What makes this show great for the A2 Ensemble?

BZ: SKP is the type of show that really gives every actor the chance to “chew the scenery,” as it were, but also relies very heavily on the chemistry of the ensemble.  And because of the abbreviated rehearsal period, we really had to click from day one.  Fortunately, because of Antaeus and A2, we’ve all had opportunities to work together in the past and we had no trouble at all hitting our stride.

Buck with Belen Greene as “Macbetty.” Photo by Kendra Chell

SKP is also a wonderful foil to Antaeus’s current production of Macbeth.  As well as sharing a set and an actor, SKP borrows some major plot points directly from “The Scottish Play.”  While you need not have seen one to thoroughly enjoy the other, I think an audience member who has seen “Mackers” will find some fun surprises in SKP that other audience members might not get.

Ultimately, SKP is a rapid fire comedy that’s really going to keep the audience on their toes.  No one should have trouble staying alert for an hour for our late night shows, and for our prime time Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they’ll start their evening with a great show and still have plenty of time to hit up the local Tiki bar!

AC: If you could use one word and a sound effect to describe SKP, what would they be?
BZ: “Zounds!”  And the low, descending, two-tone blast of a ocean barge.

The famous baguette-pineapple scene with Buck & Patrick Wenk-Wolff. Photo by Holly Abel


AC: What gag makes you groan the most in the show?
BZ:  Ha!  I hope this question doesn’t give people the wrong impression of the play!  Most of the humor is actually very smart.  There are those moments though.  I’m actually a big fan of the “groaners.”  I don’t want to spoil anything in the play, but I’ll share one of my favorite exchanges that has actually been cut (strictly for time).  I include it here in all it’s groan-inducing glory.  Juliet asks her cockney Nurse about Susan, the Nurse’s daughter, who sadly died in birth, entangled in the Nurse’s cord (a great setup, I know…).

Abby Wilde (NOT as Juliet – which she also plays – but as a wizened old Roman hag). Photo by Kendra Chell

JULIET:  Didst thou just say I played with Susan, Nurse?

NURSE:  Lordie lord, you did!  Thou wert inseparable.
JULIET:  You said she died in neonatal noose.
NURSE:  But thou did love her so, my heart did break
To from your arms my little angel take.
You’d romp for hours, playing seek and hide.

Gross?  Sure.  Funny?  I sure think so!  There’s nothing quite that dark left in the show, but the there’s plenty left to gleefully cringe at!


AC: Have there been any offstage comments, bloopers or happenings that rival the play in hilarity?
BZ: No… all the comments, bloopers and hilarity have happened onstage, and I hope they continue to do so!  If we make the audience laugh half as much as we make each other laugh in rehearsal, we’ll have a great show on our hands!  It’s almost become a game of who can make who break first.  There are a couple of moments built in where we get to briefly improvise, or milk a particular bit, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s “go time.” I think a large part of SKP’s charm is going to be watching us try to keep it together while it brazenly charges forward.

AC: What has been unique about working on this show? The challenges?
BZ: SKP certainly offers its fair share of challenges, not the least of which has been the language.  As laugh-a-minute and slapstick as SKP is, it’s also beautifully and tightly versed in iambic pentameter, adding to its authenticity.  While keeping it light and quick apace, we’re also forced to be very meticulous with the words.  It plays a wonderful trick on the audience that way, often mixing the low brow with a brilliant attention to detail.

The cast of SKP (most of them – the others are changing). Photo by Kendra Chell.

Of course there’s the obvious challenge of playing multiple characters, each with a different costume, physical persona and dialect, and often not having much time at all to switch between them.  Add to that the six physical entrances and exits to the stage that we often have to sprint between and the dozens of props we have to keep track of, and it’s going to be a pretty chaotic hour for us.  I’m sure something will go awry every night, but if we do our job, no one will notice.  🙂

All that being said, a special “kudos” also needs to go out to our dedicated production team, especially Alexandra Goodman, our costumer.  With each actor playing several distinct characters, often with mere seconds to change from one to the other, she certainly has her work cut out for her.

AC: You came from Chicago not that long ago.  Do you remember the first production of SKP?  Did you have a chance to see it?  Have you seen anything else that Strange Tree has done?
BZ: I moved to LA just a few months before their original production of SKP opened and Strange Tree really started to make a name for themselves.  So… no, no, and sadly… no.  I know a couple of the insanely talented people associated with the company though, and I hope to get back and see something of theirs soon!

AC: What makes Chicago theater different from Los Angeles theater and vice versa?
BZ: There are pros and consto both, but I think what it boils down to is Chicago is a town primarily for theater actors, and LA is primarily a town for film and television actors.  And rightfully so.  There are a lot of great projects being filmed in Chicago, and a lot of great theatre happening in LA, but basically, in my experience, that’s the way it is.  The Chicago theatre community isn’t as influenced by the cut-throat (for lack of a better term) element of “the biz” as what I see in Los Angeles.  I consider myself pretty fortunate to have

He’s right about that “tightly knit” feeling. Photo by Alexandra Goodman.

fallen in with Antaeus so soon after moving from Chicago.  It really has a tightly knit feeling of an artists’ community that a lot of Los Angeles seems to be lacking.  And it’s inspiring, as someone who wants to make a career out of acting, to be surrounded by theatre artists who have been able to make a living as film and television actors and still find time to tread the boards every now and then.  What LA may lack in community though, it makes up for in opportunity.  If you have an idea for a show or a film, and you’re passionate and willing to work, there is SOMEONE who will help you make it happen here.


AC: If you could say anything to Tom Willmorth right now, what would it be?
BZ: I’d grasp his forearm manfully and whisper a sweet “Hey Nonny” in his ear… the one that works.

AC: What would your mother say about this production?
BZ: She’d love it!  But she’d like my parts best.  :0)


A2 Member
, Buck Zachary, patiently answers our questions on Shakespeare’s “King Phycus” by Tom Willmorth, directed by John Apicella.  Make your reservation at http://www.antaeus.org.  Suggested Donation $10
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