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Anne Boleyn

a Drama
by Howard Brenton

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Ansley Park Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 4967

SHOWING : September 23, 2016 - October 16, 2016



A fresh, tantalizing take on a familiar tale of romance, betrayal and political intrigue. Devout as she is ambitious, Anne navigates courtly love, lust and lies to secure not only her own marriage to King Henry VIII but a Protestant reformation. Anne fulfills her calling to be England’s first Protestant queen, but keeping her crown – and her head – is a different matter. A delicious and daring revisionist history.

Director Richard Garner
Henry Barrow/Parrot/Country Man 1/Sloop Josh Brook
Dean Lancelot Andrewes/Thomas Cromwell Allan Edwards
James I/Henry VIII Brian Hatch
Anne Boleyn Brooke Owens
Robert Cecil/Tyndale/Simpkin Doyle Reynolds
Dr. John Rainolds/Cardinal Wolsey Kerwin Thompson
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Love, Perseverance, and Religion
by playgoer
Monday, October 3, 2016
In his play "Anne Boleyn," Howard Brenton focuses on how William Tyndale’s Bible translation and book-length tract influenced Anne Boleyn, and through her King Henry VIII and the split of the Anglican Church from the Roman Catholic Church. The framing story concerns James I (James VI of Scotland) and the influence of this earlier work on the King James translation of the Bible. Anne’s persevering love for Henry underlies it all.

The action takes place on a lovely set designed by Barrett Doyle. Arched colonnades left from stage right toward upstage left, aiming toward a low set of stairs that are topped by an elegant door whose use is delayed until the penultimate moments of the show. More rustic wooden doors stage left and tapestry-like arrases stage right provide room for downstage exits and entrances. The bare bones of an arch and a half spill into the audience area.

Abby Parker’s costumes (with Susan Carter her assistant) add to the visual appeal of the production. There’s a mix of Elizabethan and Jacobean styles, but only Doyle Reynolds’ costume in the court of King James gives a real feel of difference. The costumes for Brian Hatch as both King Henry and King James do the worst job of providing a distinction. There’s the classic King Henry Hans Holbein-style coat appearing in the second act, probably as an attempt to suggest a body’s broadening with age, but it comes late enough that we’ve already come to tell the difference between the characters. It’s only the first switch in the first act that lacks real distinction.

The casting of a limited number of actors in a large number of roles doesn’t work particularly well in the production. Most actors try to use different accents for their different roles, and Doyle Reynolds comes up with the weirdest semi-continental speech patterns for William Tyndale. Allan Edwards and Kerwin Thompson manage to give distinct speech patterns to their main characters, but the characters themselves are so similar and so notable that we are quite cognizant that these are the same actors. Josh Brook does the best at delineating his characters with posture and demeanor, aided by the fact that the characters are generally minor.

D. Connor McVey’s lighting design has some nice dim, shadowy effects for the outdoors night scenes, but these unfortunately affect the general wash across the stage for indoor scenes. I found it very distracting to watch faces move through bright light, shadow, and obscured light as Richard Garner’s blocking had actors stride across the downstage area of the stage.

Rob Brooksher’s sound design uses music appropriate for the period to set our expectations pre-show and adds good effects as needed to underline dramatic moments in the script. The set and sound together provide a nice period background for the costumed actors to populate.

The acting is good across all the major roles. Particular standouts are Brian Hatch, whose King James is energetic and cheeky and profane, and the open-faced Brooke Owens as Anne Boleyn, whose impish smile and expressive face and voice instantly let us know that she is a force to be reckoned with. (And I’ll leave it up to you to determine if the "she" I mean is Anne Boleyn or Ms. Owens herself.)

The play itself bogs down a little in its religious discussions, and the shift from King James’ time to King Henry’s time occurs pretty abruptly in the first act, not returning to King James until after the intermission. The generally chronological flow works in terms of storytelling, but isn’t very inventive or compelling. The many asides, from many characters, also help to move the storytelling along, but make the action less compelling, giving it the feel at times of a pageant rather than a play.

Richard Garner’s direction is fine, making good use of the stage and showing his actors to advantage (and the interns to less advantage, although Brittany L. Smith is good as Lady Rochford). With a more compelling script and a less distracting lighting design, this production would reach even greater heights. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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