Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
Henry VA Noise Within
The young layabout Prince Halcompanion of Falstaff, frequenter of taverns, prankster unfit for the thronetransformed himself into a king. On the throne, he was thoughtful, fair, powerful and merciful. A Noise Within's production shows us this transition, as Rafael Goldstein's Henry is constantly struggling to swallow the emotions he feels as a person and replace them with the reactions he needs to have as a king. It's a delicate performance, focused on not the hero everyone sees, but the man trying to make himself into that hero.
That said, it is also an unusual onemost effective not in the speeches you expect an actor playing Henry V to kill, but in other, more surprising moments. Goldstein's take on the St. Crispin's Day speech is not one that would make me follow him into battle. Indeed, it comes off more as an inside joke; Henry and the English all know they're going to die, and the men chuckle softly in response to Henry's suggestion that they are enough to win. (And the speech is not helped at all by Robert Oriol's underscoring. The inspiring music is distracting, both because it reminds you that it is not Patrick Doyle's stirring score from the Kenneth Branagh film, but also because it is badly mismatched to Goldstein's performance at this point.)
But just when I'm thinking A Noise Within blew the most important scene in Henry V, Goldstein nearly brought me to tears with his performance of Henry after Agincourt, when he reads the lists of the dead. For the very first time, I realized Shakespeare's brilliance in having Henry read the French dead first; Henry feels the cost of warthere is no joy in the list of lives his army has taken.
The production, directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott, is not overtly political, although their directors' note comments on the play being "achingly resonant in the here and now." They're not wrong. Certainly, when we see the Dauphin (played by the conveniently red-headed Kasey Mahaffy) before the battle, prattling on about glory and enamored by both the sound of his own voice and the overwhelming power of his force, it is difficult not to think that this is a man really looking forward to a military parade in his honor. There is something comforting in knowing that whatever issues we may have with our leaders now, Shakespeare has already addressed them.
The play clocks in at a quick two hours and change, meaning there are a lot of cuts. Some of themparticularly a massive shortening of Katherine learning the English words for body partsare quite welcome. But you're definitely getting a streamlined play. The cast is small; many actors double- or triple-up on roles.
A program insert reflects changes made between the printing deadline and the opening (a performer joined the cast, some parts have moved around, and an intermission was added). On opening night, one of the supporting actors badly went up on his lines. It can happen to anyoneand it's probably very hard to cover as Shakespearean dialogue is difficult to improvisebut it was very noticeable as the actor dropped character and repeated the last-remembered words in an attempt to find his place, while everyone else on stage just watched it happen. It was an unfortunate occurrence, but suggested that this production might have a been a bit under-rehearsed.
Even the impressive fight choreographyonstage battles feel so immediate on a thrust stagefeels a bit too choreographed, as though the actors are still counting beats in their heads. I imagine the production might be more effective later in the run, when everyone has loosened up a bit, and the actors can go a bit deeper into their roles. As it stands, it is an opportunity to watch Goldstein's Henry strive every second to overcome his internal doubts and present the external face of a true warrior king.
Henry V, in repertory at A Noise Within in Glendale CA through April 6, 2018. For tickets and information, see www.ANoiseWithin.org.
A Noise Within presents Henry V by William Shakespeare. Directed by Julia Rodriguez-Elliott & Geoff Elliott. Scenic Design Frederica Nascimento; Costume Design Angela Balogh Calin; Lighting Design Ken Booth; Sound Design and Original Music Robert Oriol; Stage Manager Anne M. Jude; Assistant Stage Manager Kayla Hammett; Assistant Lighting Design Briana Pattillo; Wig/Make-Up Design Klint Flowers; Props Master Sydney Russell; Music Direction Dr. Melissa Sky-Eagle; Fight Choreography Kenneth R. Merckx, Jr.; Co-Fight Choreographer Collin Bressie; Co-Fight Choreographer Marc Leclerc; Dialect Coach Christine A. Menzies; Light Board Operator Jacob Houser; Deck Crew Catherine Lee.