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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Henry V

Also see Susan's review of Richard II

Henry V
Michael Hayden
The "Leadership Repertory" at Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company continues with a robust production of Henry V as physical and immediate as the concurrent production of Richard II is introspective and philosophically searching, and featuring another vivid central performance by Michael Hayden.

Director David Muse is working with a large canvas: Sidney Harman Hall has a vastly wide, deep and tall stage (with seating on three sides in the current configuration) and a large, animated cast brings the saga to life. He brings a cinematic sensibility to the battle scenes—he directs the audience's attention through tightly focused lighting while immersing the stage in combat sounds—and offers intriguing insights into character.

To begin with, Muse has cast the Chorus, which provides the introduction and narration between scenes, with three performers in modern dress: a soldier (Ted van Griethuysen), a bow-tied professor (Larry Paulsen), and a spirited young woman (Robynn Rodriguez). They control the action, even to the point of cueing the house lights for intermission.

The repertory gives Hayden the opportunity to play two roles that are polar opposites of each other. Unlike his cousin Richard, who had power handed to him in childhood and then abused it, Henry has a lot to prove: his father deposed Richard, meaning his succession may be questioned, and, as Shakespeare's Henry IV plays make clear, he spent his youth roistering about in taverns with lowlifes such as Sir John Falstaff (T. Anthony Quinn). An explanatory note: Shakespeare actually kept Falstaff offstage in this play, but Muse must have thought that such a dynamic and famous character should make at least a cameo appearance.

The text, perceived through Muse's crystalline direction, shows how Henry grows in stature when he makes a claim for the throne of France—because his great-great-grandfather married the sister of three French kings (the intermarriage among European royal families gets very thick at times)—and through the tough, problematic decisions that go with leading an army.

While Hayden is the core of the production, many other performers also stand out. Derrick Lee Weeden is Henry's uncle and stalwart ally, the Duke of Exeter; Stephen Paul Johnson, as the combative Welsh Captain Fluellen, is endearing even when under fire; Tom Story is a perfectly supercilious Dauphin, heir to King Charles VI of France (another quietly commanding performance from Philip Goodwin); and Floyd King scores as both the sneaky Bardolph and the calm Duke of Burgundy. Rachael Holmes has only two scenes as the French Princess Katharine, but she's charming in both of them.

Lee Savage's rough scenic design serves as the palette for Mark McCullough's expansive lighting design, which even incorporates flashlights held by actors; Elizabeth Hope Clancy's costumes, subdued for the English and flamboyant for the French; Fabian Obispo's musical score; and Martin Desjardins' all-encompassing sound design.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Henry V
February 4th April 10th, in repertory with Richard II
By William Shakespeare
Chorus: Larry Paulsen, Robynn Rodriguez, Ted van Griethuysen
The English Court:
King Henry V: Michael Hayden
Duke of Exeter, uncle to the King: Derrick Lee Weeden
Duke of Gloucester, brother to the King: Todd Quick
Duke of Bedford, brother to the King: Adam Navarro
Earl of Westmorland: Conrad Feininger
Archbishop of Canterbury: Philip Goodwin
Bishop of Ely: Stephen Paul Johnson
Bishop of Norwich: Scott Whitehurst
Cambridge: Sun King Davis
Scroop: Jason Marr
Grey: William LeDent
Lords, Attendants: Joseph Ibanez, DeVon Jackson, Dan Kremer, Jakob Stalnaker, Patrick Vaill
Eastcheap:
Bardolph: Floyd King
Pistol: Darren Matthias
Mistress Quickly, his wife: Naomi Jacobson
Nym: Louis Lotorto
Sir John Falstaff: T. Anthony Quinn
A Boy: Patrick Vaill
Wedding Guests: Meredith Burns, William LeDent, Sarah Mollo-Christensen, Charlie Francis Murphy, David Joseph Regelmann
The English Army:
Captain Fluellen: Stephen Paul Johnson
Captain Gower: Charles Borland
Captain Macmorris: Adam Navarro
Captain Jamy: David Joseph Regelmann
Sir Thomas Erpingham: Ted van Griethuysen
Michael Williams: Scott Whitehurst
John Bates: William LeDent
Alexander Court: Joseph Ibanez
Earl of Salisbury: Jason Marr
Duke of York: Sun King Davis
Soldiers: Devon Jackson, Jason Marr, Jakob Stalnaker
The French:
King Charles VI: Philip Goodwin
Queen Isabel: Naomi Jacobson
Dauphin: Tom Story
Princess Katharine: Rachael Holmes
Constable, commander of the armies: Dan Kremer
Montjoy, a herald: John Lescault
Duke of Orleans: David Joseph Regelmann
Duke of Bourbon: Charlie Francis Murphy
Alice, lady attending on the Princess: Robynn Rodriguez
Governor of Harfleur: Louis Lotorto
Le Fer, a soldier: Philip Goodwin
Messenger: Larry Paulsen
Duke of Burgundy: Floyd King
Soldiers, Attendants: Meredith Burns, Joseph Ibanez, Devon Jackson, William LeDent, Sarah Mollo-Christensen, Patrick Vaill
Directed by David Muse
Harman Center for the Arts, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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