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Henry IV Part 1

a Historical Drama
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 5338

SHOWING : September 15, 2018 - October 21, 2018



The newly crowned King Henry IV has much on his mind. Not only does he have to deal with a rebellion led by Glendower, Northumberland and Hotspur, but his son and heir to the throne, Prince Hal, is behaving badly. It seems the young Prince has taken to hanging out at the Boar’s Head Tavern with the roguish knight Sir John Falstaff and his conspicuous friends. Tawdry fun and tavern games quickly turn to life and death as Prince Hal and Hotspur face off in at Shrewsbury. What’s a father to do?!

Director Jeff Watkins
Sir John Falstaff, Ostler Tony Brown
Henry (Hal), the Prince of Wales Jonathan Horne
Prince John of Lancaster, Poins, Musicia Sean Kelley
King Henry IV, Carrier Maurice Ralston
Earl of Westmoreland, Lady Mortimer, Hos Mary Ruth Ralston
Henry Percy, Owen Glendower, Sir RIchard Drew Reeves
Lady Percy, Earl of Douglas, Chamberlain Mary Russell
Sir Walter Blunt, Edmund Mortimer, Gadsh Charlie T. Thomas
Thomas Percy, Sheriff, Rich Traveler Troy Willis
Bardolph, Messenger Jeffery Zwartjes
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Comedy Leavening History
by playgoer
Monday, September 17, 2018
Shakespeare’s history plays tend to be talky, setting up political factions and rebellious tensions, with a little swordplay thrown in for good measure. "Henry IV, Part 1" is no exception, but it has plenty of comedy too, in the shenanigans of Sir John Falstaff, a vainglorious, cowardly buffoon and boon companion to Prince Hal. That helps make the history go down easy.

Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern’s production is enlivened by a number of excellent performances. J. Tony Brown is terrific as Falstaff, his boundless good humor and portly stature bringing the character to life. Jonathan Horne is equally terrific as Prince Hal, his youthful bad-boy character deepening into a warrior over the course of the play. Chris Hecke plays his nemesis Henry Percy, AKA Hotspur, with tremendous spirit and conviction, underlining the plot point that King Henry IV (Maurice Ralston) admires that Henry more than his own son Henry (Hal). Another standout in the cast is Mary Ruth Ralston, indelibly pitch perfect in all of her roles, male or female, speaking or singing, English or Welsh.

Fine impressions are also made by Sean Kelley, who plays companions to Prince Hal, and by Jeffrey Zwartjes, who is excellent as one of Falstaff’s companions. Mary Russell does nice work in minor male and female roles, but impresses most as the bloodthirsty Douglas, part of the rebellion against Henry IV. The Tavern regulars like Drew Reeves and Troy Willis, who fill the other major roles, do their usual standard of work.

The plot, aside from the Falstaff shenanigans, revolves around a concerted rebellion with three fronts (Wales, Scotland, England). The rebellion is put down at the end of the play, but enough of the rebels (minus Hotspur) are left alive that Part 2 promises additional complications in the reign of King Henry IV.

The physical production is typical of the Shakespeare Tavern’s work. Anné Carole Butler’s costumes invoke period and status, and the lighting design of Greg Hanthorn, Jr. keeps things visible, while still suggesting night or day, as appropriate. The fight choreography by Drew Reeves (assisted by Mary Ruth Ralston) is impressive, and the sound design and direction by Jeff Watkins do more than what is needed to convey the story.

The Shakespeare Tavern expects smaller crowds for its history plays than for the Shakespearean "standards," so it fills a portion of the audience space with a platform that provides additional playing space. At the start of "Henry IV, Part 1," it hosts a table and benches suggesting the tavern at which Falstaff is deep in his cups. The opening tableau gives a clue as to the comedy to come. And fine comedy it is, blending into the martial action that’s a necessary ingredient of a history play. A cut above, this. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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