Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


The Lion in Winter
Custom Made Theatre Co.
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of The Morning After and Aladdin and Patrick's review of The Royale


Steven Westdahl and Catherine "Cat" Luedtke
Photo by Jay Yamada
The Custom Made Theatre Co. production of James Goldman's The Lion in Winter has come roaring into their theatre. It's a magnificent production with an outstanding cast of seven dexterous actors. I saw the historical drama in the spring of 1966 with Robert Preston as King Henry II and Rosemary Harris as Eleanor of Aquitaine, with a young Christopher Walken as Philip II King of France. This production feels just about as good as the original.

The Lion in Winter takes place at Henry II's Christmas party at his castle Chinon in 1183. The plot involves a battle over the throne between Henry II (Steven Westdahl) and Eleanor of Aquitaine (Catherine "Cat" Luedtke). Henry favors their weak youngest child John (Luke Brady) and Eleanor backs their more stately older son Richard (Elliot Lieberman), while middle son Geoffrey (Kalon Thibodeaux) plots in the background. The whole family is engaged in a hereditary chess match in which a kingdom is the prize. Henry's mistress Alais (Catlin Evenson), a French princess, is an expedient pawn. Also involved is Phillip II, King of France (Will Trichon). I would compare this to the matrimonial slugfest in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

Catherine "Cat" Luedtke as Eleanor and Steven Westdahl as Henry II give brilliant performances. She is the classic tigress in the role. He dominates the stage with a mixture of rage and engaging wit. Together, they create a powerful punch. Caitlin Everson, Luke Brady, Kalon Thibodeaux, Elliot Lieberman, and Will Trichon give terrific performance.

Stuart Bousel directs this two-hour piece with great efficiency.

Bottom Line: I enjoyed the nasty, delicious fun, as the characters connive, scheme and betray one another in this first-rate production.

The Lion in the Winter, through December 2, 2017, at Custom Made Theatre CO., 3rd floor, 533 Sutter Street at Powell, San Francisco CA. For tickets, visit www.custommade.org Their next production is Man of La Mancha running January 11 through February 17, 2018.


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