The Return of the King, Lifeline Theatre. This production completes a trilogy begun four years ago by Lifeline Theatre, adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved sword-and-sorcerers saga. The Dark Lord and the opportunistic Gollum seek the all-powerful ring, a talisman defended and disposed of by a plucky band of dwarfs, humans, elves, wizards, and those lovable hobbits. It helps to be a true believer in Tolkien’s fantasy: in Karen Tarjan’s 135-minute adaptation, faithful down to the commas, the exposition alone could fill a black hole.
Fortunately Ned Mochel’s pile-driving staging offers shield-rattling battle scenes, black-light effects, shadow and rod puppets (by Cynthia Von Orthal), even a miniature battlefield when events get too big for the stage. Joseph Fosco’s sound design raises the excitement level to a pulse-pounding frenzy, though Adam Kozlowski’s songs are less than epic.
Clambering up ladders and charging the stage time and again, Mochel’s nine combatants take it all as seriously as Tolkien did. (The hobbit humor falls by the wayside.) Brian Amidei is majesty itself as resourceful Gandalf, a stentorian contrast to the war-ravaged hobbits: Scott Hamilton Westerman’s breast-beating Sam, Robert Kauzlaric’s soliloquizing Merry, and Patrick Blashill’s forlorn Frodo. Robert McLean is suitably regal as Aragorn, and Amanda Amadei more than holds her own as the sole female in this world of neo-medieval machismo. Harry Potter, eat your heart out.