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‘King of Shadows’ revealed by Big Idea Theatre

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Though many find comfort in the familiar, there’s also an enjoyable thrill that only a bit of change can provide. Big Idea Theatre’s “King of Shadows,” which opened Thursday, finds a great balance using a familiar plot in a modern-day setting for an interesting theatrical experience.

I parked at the front of the building which faced closed business doors and a large locked gate. I was convinced that somehow this was the wrong location. As I frantically called around for someone to give me directions, I saw just behind me a small sign designating the location as Big Idea Theatre.

As I turned into the alley and parking lot area of the business, I was pleasantly surprised by the small art-filled courtyard that greeted me before I reached the box office. And I hoped that the play I was about to see would be just as pleasant and as magical as the location felt and how it sounded on paper. I was not disappointed.

Big Idea Theatre’s courtyard.

“King of Shadows” centers on Jessica (Gina Williams), who is a graduate student studying teenage runaways in hopes of discovering a way to help them. In her pursuit of their perspectives, Jessica meets Nihar (Andrew Perez).

In their interactions, Nihar reveals a whole other world, a mythical world, ruled by evil demon-like creatures known as the King of Shadows and The Green Lady, who are hunting San Francisco’s homeless population in search of him.

As Jessica and the audience are deciding how much of the story is real or fantasy, Jessica’s police officer boyfriend, Eric (Brian Harrower), is adamantly against her desires to be helpful but her younger sister, Sarah (Josephine Longo), instantly connects with the young storyteller.

Nihar (Andrew Perez) and Sarah (Josephine Longo).
While the play takes place in modern-day San Francisco, the urban thriller incorporates enough talk of demons, supernatural fog, other realms and magical portals that you could be forgiven if you thought it was happening in the days of old with the great Merlin.

At one point, Jessica even compares Nihar’s seemingly tall tale to William Shakespeare’s famed “A Midsummers Night’s Dream” plot.

The set was both simple and detailed. Designed to fold and slide out, it was able to illustrate a number of different locations throughout the play with the scenic art-covered walls. The lighting followed suit, supporting the fantasy-versus-reality battle in the play with subtle and supportive spot lighting.

Last but not least, the four actors of the piece were all animated, making the unbelievable questionably believable and at the very least allowing the audience to trust in the sincerity of each character.

It was an intimate viewing. The small theater was filled with about 30 people Thursday night composed mostly of friends and family as well as a few regular patrons, all there supporting the company on opening night. The audience was very receptive and made for an even more enjoyable show.

Though the audience does not get to see much of the grand stories described by Nihar played out on stage, the play is well-written, and the audience remains engaged, wondering what will happen next and if it is all just one big extravagant lie.

In the end, with all these factors combined: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s words, the actors’ execution and the simple yet detailed stage decorating, envisioning it all was not difficult. One could even say it came surprisingly naturally.

For audience member Nicole Smith, there supporting her friend, Robert Perez, the whole play was “surprisingly sweet.”

So, if you’re looking for more than your average Shakespearean play, definitely check out Big Idea Theatre’s latest.

“King of Shadows” will run through July 23, starting at 8 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. Ticket prices range from $13 to $15.

For more information on “King of Shadows” and Big Idea Theatre, click here.

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