If this production of Ionesco's "Exit the King," at Open Fist Theatre Company, is any indication, the work of the grand absurdist may not be holding up too well.
It all looks a little simplistic under Leslie Hurley's direction, which adds an unnecessary extra layer of absurdity in his staging. He also makes a silly play for pertinence by dressing the Guard (an overactive Scott Lee) as an Arab, and the King's bimbo No. 2 wife (a non-sensual Michelle Holtzman) as a harem vamp.
Only in the final scenes, as the King succumbs to madness and age, realizing the ephemeral uses of power, does the production hit the mark. Colin Cunningham is a fine, richly drawn King, visually disintegrating before our eyes, and symbolically in our minds. He carries the evening. Patricia Tallman, as the evil Queen Marguerite, begins playing only the edges of her role, but rises to some power in these last moments, a strong climax to a scattered production.
* \o7 "Exit the King," Open Fist Theatre, 1625 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood; Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends June 15. $15; (213) 882-6912. Running time: 2 hours. \f7