Only the Beginning for “King of the Rats: A Final Symphony”

By Ernest Kearney  —  “I was like Mozart in his day,”  announces Bartholomew (Writer/Performer Montana Cypress) from his sanctuary in an abandoned section of the New York subway.  “Misunderstood… Misinterpreted, but not missed.”

Once a renowned composer, Bartholomew is conceiving his last composition in the subterranean darkness, for an audience of vermin.   Hence is the concept of King of the Rats: A Final Symphony.

Sadly, this somewhat interesting premise is where the show starts and finishes, as Director Maggie Carney did not press upon Cypress the vital requirement of making choices.

Some tyros are under the misconception that imagination is what serves as the foundation of any solid production; or high levels of talents.


Actor, Writer, Montana Cypress (HFF18)

Don’t get me wrong, imagination and talent can be handy, but what makes or breaks any enterprise are choices.

Strong, decisive choices.

Intelligent choices if possible or, if not, go for daring ones.

Warfare has an adage known to all who dream of glory, “Ride to the canons.”

In the creative realms, the sentiment is expressed as, “Make the damn choices.”

Do I hear chortles of distain among you?

Fine, class is now in session:  

Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 epic war film.   A masterpiece, hands down.  But what made it a masterpiece?

The script by John Milius and Coppola?  Coppola’s detailed storyboarding and meticulous planning?

His vision?

None of the above.

What made that film into a masterpiece are the tens of thousands of rapid, desperate, panic-filled, coked-out, raving, sleep-deprived, naïve, bleak and brilliant choices Coppola was forced to make on every single day of filming.

Sometimes they were the right choices. Sometimes he just got damn lucky.

Doubt me?

Then I suggest you watch the 1991 documentary, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.  (writer's hand — NOTE)


From its opening moments, the much-needed choices for King of the Rats were left untouched:


Is Bartholomew a victim of his lucidity or his madness?
How long has he lived in these tunnels?
Are we witnessing his quietus or being subjected to his defiance?


Cypress bounds about the stage with little logic but great athleticism, in a dance that offers no definition to the character while proving disturbing and distracting to the audience.

That fact that the actor began his piece booming, bellowing and bouncing about only added to the show’s woes in that it allowed him nowhere to go to.

A mountain has drama in the challenge of the climb and the danger of the plummet.  It tends to be a bit boring when the climber starts at the peak and just stays at the peak.


Director, Maggie Carney (HFF18)

Michael Chekhov wrote that there are only three states in which an actor can exist on stage and that his performance is woven from the constant flow and interplay of these three conditions: “balancing,” “floating” and “falling.”


It is a good starting point in building one’s character, and that start forces choices on the actor.


As it is, the ‘Final Symphony’ one would naturally expect music as a vital component to this piece, and though it is, it is not treated as such.


No thought seems to have been given to this pivotal element, so that the orchestration—supposedly   Bartholomew’s original work—is a hodgepodge of classical works recognizable to even those who squeaked through 7th grade music appreciation with a “D.”


On all levels this production was a failure, soaked with the arrogance of youthful stupidity, suffering under the delusion that the audience would be dazzled by the brilliance of his mere presence.


Now we come to my favorite part— Conan the critic!

What is best in life?

“To gleefully gut the neophyte, to smash his PC which, holds Final Draft on it, to take his woman and hear her lamentations…”

Except, I’m not going to do any of that.


bronze ribbon - Fringe FestivalWhether, after this brutalizing given him, Cypress ever wants to set foot on a stage again, or if he even has the sand to commit to the ball busting and soul shearing work demanded of an artist, in order to earn the privilege of standing before an audience, that’s entirely up to him.


And make no mistake this was an immature muddle of a play, but somewhere, deep within all the drivel….there was a hint of promise.

For that hint a BRONZE MEDAL.


♦    ♦    ♦


(writer's hand — NOTE:  Why I bet a dollar you never even noticed Harrison Ford’s part in the film.)


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King of the Rats: A Final Symphony

Ran During Hollywood Fringe Festival 2018

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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

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