HOUSTON - Described as a romp about morality set in the Middle Ages, King of Proverbs is more "Monty Python" than parable, said Bill Shryock, who's directing the world premiere of James Masters' comedy with drama at The A. D. Players in Houston, May 8 - June 14. "We don't have people standing around in bathrobes looking pious," Shryock observed about the play and the 30-year-old professional Christian troupe presenting it.
A published dramatist, Masters began writing King of Proverbs in 1993, explained Shryock, who's also director of special projects for The A. D. Players and its box office assistant. Now, Shryock said, the frothy script is ready to be produced. In the rollicking plot, a dim-witted king searches for knowledge with help from a street-wise counselor. But the trek proves to be more than the budding friends bargained for. "It's a wonderful look at some of the principles from the Book of Proverbs," offered Shryock. "But the play itself is not liturgical. It has a wider universe than some are used to seeing from The A. D. Players."
Stuffing it with pratfalls, sight gags, running jokes and other elements of physical comedy, and stressing the guffaws to the word plays in the text, Shryock said, "I have tried to create buttons on the serious turns the script takes." While Act One revels in the wisdom within foolishness and vice versa, Act Two is leavened by, among other themes, the potential for adultery and the difficulty of penance. The hapless King, after all, thinks about taking a mistress, while his adviser, a reforming murderer and a thief, has trouble accepting forgiveness because of his guilt for his sins.
"Things aren't wrapped up with a pretty little bow at the end. The adviser escapes, and there's no knowledge that he'll ever come back. The would-be mistress is left in the lurch. And the King dispenses mercy but at a cost he didn't expect."
Nobody walks around preaching the moral to the story, Shryock asserted. The characters are honest, discoveries are heartfelt, and truths are expressed about the self through others. All done with a smile, a wink, and a nod. King of Proverbs plays May 8 - June 14 at The A. D. Players. For tickets, $6 - $16, call (713) 439-0181.
By Peter Szatmary