Exit the King The third installment of absurdist playwright Eugène Ionesco's four-part "Berenger Cycle," Le Roi se meurt (Exit the King) presents the protagonist as a 400-year-old monarch whose empire is crumbling — as is he. Unlike the sad-sack Berenger of the other three plays, King Berenger (Robert Ashton) possessed godlike powers. Now his first wife, Queen Marguerite (Nancy Crouse), attempts to guide him gently toward life's finish line with the help of the Doctor (David K. Gibbs), while his second wife, Queen Marie (Bridget Barisonek), counsels denial. In other words, it's getting all existential up in here. As the loony old geezer, Ashton pulls his weight and then some; likewise Liana Kopchak as Juliette, the maid. But the play depends on a perfect balance between life's glorious absurdity and, you know, the Big Casino, and this King is killed by an accumulation of flaws (forgotten lines, missteps, tone-deaf comic timing) and director Renee Sevier-Monsey's unsteady hand at the helm. Presented by the West End Players Guild through April 22 at the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 North Union Boulevard. Tickets are $20. Call 314-367-0025 or visit www.westendplayers.org. — Chrissy Wilmes
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