Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Henry IV, Part 1
Shakespeare Theatre Company

Stacy Keach
Washington's Shakespeare Theatre Company and its artistic director Michael Kahn have staged a majestic yet easy-to-follow production of William Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, running in repertory with the much less familiar Henry IV, Part 2. Kahn and a strong cast, headed by Stacy Keach as Sir John Falstaff and Edward Gero as the king, never allow the minutiae of the political plot to overwhelm the human drama.

Henry IV deposed his cousin Richard II to capture the English throne, and now he faces a threat of his own. Henry Percy or Hotspur (John Keabler), son of the Earl of Northumberland (Kevin McGuire), supports Edmund Mortimer (Aaron Gaines), considered the true heir to the throne by the supporters of Richard. Henry has a son of his own, Prince Hal (Matthew Amendt), but the prince spends his time in taverns with Falstaff and his friends, drinking and whoring instead of learning about discipline and the duties of a future king.

Keach is magnetic as he draws out all the contradictory sides of Falstaff: charming and exasperating, a self-deceiver who tells lies both for fun and for self-preservation, a drunkard and voluptuary who truly cares for Prince Hal but also sees their friendship as a step back to respectability. His scenes with Amendt—whom the audience sees developing a conscience in the course of the action—strike sparks of intensity.

Gero's noble but tortured King Henry is the polar opposite of Falstaff, devoted to his responsibilities and trying hard to bridge the gap between himself and Prince Hal. As Shakespeare makes clear, the prince needs the lessons of both older men, and he absorbs them even when he seems oblivious.

Shakespeare balances the tangles of political intrigue against the interplay of individual characters. For example, Hotspur has a combative and passionate relationship with his wife (Kelley Curran), who is Mortimer's sister, while Mortimer and his wife (Vanessa Sterling), daughter of the Welsh lord Owen Glendower (Ted van Griethuysen), have to cope with a literal inability to communicate—neither can speak the other's language.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Henry IV, Part 1 March 25th - June 8th, in repertory with Henry IV, Part 2
By William Shakespeare
The Royal Family
King Henry IV: Edward Gero
Henry, Prince of Wales, surnamed Hal, son to the King: Matthew Amendt
Prince John of Lancaster, son to the King: Patrick Vaill
Prince Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, son to the King: Alex Piper
Thomas, Duke of Clarence, son to the King: Nathan Winkelstein
Earl of Westmoreland, cousin to the King: Craig Wallace
The Percy Family
Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland: Kevin McGuire
Henry Percy, his son, surnamed Hotspur: John Keabler
Lady Percy, Hotspur's wife, and sister to Mortimer: Kelley Curran
Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester, brother to Northumberland: Steve Pickering
Sir Richard Vernon: Chris Genebach
Servant to Hotspur: Jack Powers
Allies to the King
Sir Walter Blount: Joel David Santner
Lord Chief Justice, of the King's bench: Derrick Lee Weeden
Allies to the Rebellion
Owen Glendower, of the Welsh: Ted van Griethuysen
Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, Lady Percy's brother: Aaron Gaines
Lady Mortimer, his wife, daughter to Glendower: Vanessa Sterling
Archibald, Earl of Douglas: Rhett Henckel
Sir John Falstaff: Stacy Keach
Mistress Quickly, hostess of the tavern: Kate Skinner
Ned Poins, follower of Falstaff: Jude Sandy
Bardolph, follower of Falstaff: Brad Bellamy
Peto, follower of Falstaff: Matthew McGee
Gadshill, follower of Falstaff: Chris Genebach
Francis, a tapster: Luis Alberto Gonzalez
Tom, a tapster: Ade Otukoya
Dick, a tapster: Alex Piper
Travellers: Bev Appleton, Michael Crowley, Aaron Gaines, Brendon Schaefer
Whores of the tavern: Julia Brandeberry, Maggie Kettering, Vanessa Sterling
Directed by Michael Kahn
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

Photo: Scott Suchman