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Henry the Sixth Part Two

a Play
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 4968

SHOWING : September 30, 2016 - October 09, 2016



Director Jeff Watkins
Prentice/Lady-in-Waiting/Others Tatyana Arrington
Beauford/John Holland Tony Brown
Salisbury/Stafford Peter Hardy
Homer/Dick/Shipmaster Nathan Hesse
Richard Plantagenet Andrew Houchins
Gloucester/Old Clifford Doug Kaye
Southwell/Others Sean Kelley
Clerk/Peter/Jailer/Mrs. Simpcox Adam Daniel King
Whitmore/Somerset Vinnie Mascola
Spirit/Prentice/Murderer/Beadle/Others Miles McBath
Bolingbrook/Edward Plantagenet/Lord Say Matt Nitchie
King Henry VI Mary Ruth Ralston
York/Stafford Maurice Ralston
Hume/Jack Cade/Mayor of St. Albans Drew Reeves
Eleanor Tetrianna Silas
Petitioner/Mr. Simpcox/Murderer/Smith/Id David Sterritt
Margery Jourdain/Vaux/Others Julia Steudle
Margaret Amee Vyas
Bevis/Neighbor/Buckingham Clarke Weigle
Sawyer/Warwick Troy Willis
Suffolk/Young Clifford/Lord Scales Trey York
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The Protracted History of Henry VI
by playgoer
Friday, October 7, 2016
"King Henry the Sixth Part 2" is being presented in three acts at the Shakespeare Tavern. The first and third acts have a lot of activity and energy and keep interest throughout. The second act, in which three erstwhile threats to King Henry’s reign meet death, is deadly dull. The second act sparks briefly here and there, such as when Peter Hardy enters and delivers a few lines, but overall it’s a lot of time spent waiting for the next domino to fall. If that act had been condensed to the equivalent of a montage, the play would speed along. As it is, the second act plods.

The first act introduces the pious and bloodless King Henry (Mary Ruth Ralston) to his conniving, stronger-blooded wife Margaret (Amee Vyas), brought to him with the over-solicitous protection of the Duke of Suffolk (Trey York, threat #3). Humphrey, the Lord Protector (Doug Kaye, threat #1), and Cardinal Beaufort (J. Tony Brown, threat #2) both set their sights on increased power, but Humphrey’s wife Eleanor (Tetrianna Silas) oversteps bounds in enlisting the aid of a conjurer and witch, causing her own banishment and casting suspicion on her husband.

The third act dramatizes the homeland rebellion of Jack Cade (Drew Reeves), whose downfall brings back the Duke of York (Maurice Ralston) from fighting a rebellion in Ireland, his sights on the crown. Both claim parentage through the royal line of succession, and believe their claims trump those of Henry VI. The play ends with the House of York on the ascendant, but without any resolution of the plight of King Henry VI.

The stage set-up is the same as for part one of the Henry VI saga, with a square platform set diamond-like in front of the stage proper. Costumes (Anné Carole Butler), sound (Clark Weigle), and fight direction (Drew Reeves, with the assistance of Mary Ruth Ralston and David Sterritt) are up to the high standards of the Tavern. Lighting design, by Greg Hanthorn Jr., has several special effects, but has a tendency to use spotlighted areas on the stage that don’t match the actors’ positions exactly, resulting in murky surroundings for some primary action.

Acting, projection, and diction are good across the board, but some lower voices don’t resonate well in the space for those speaking a little more softly (Doug Kaye) or for those shouting (Troy Willis). The Ralstons (Mary Ruth and Maurice) both have a tendency to rush through their distinctly-spoken lines, as if trying to get them out of the way, and Matt Nitchie doesn’t move his mouth much when speaking, requiring extra attention. Amee Vyas uses a French accent, but that doesn’t unduly get in the way of her understandability. Peter Hardy, Sean Kelley, and Drew Reeves are clarion-clear throughout.

The serious parts of the plot are directed by Jeffrey Watkins with directness and sincerity. It’s the comedy, though, that really stands out. Drew Reeves is a delight as Jack Cade, a transparently ambitious rabble-rouser whose comedy comes directly from his character. Adam King and David Sterritt are also comic highlights, with shtick enhancing their performances as various characters.

Without the protracted second act, "King Henry the Sixth Part 2" would clock in at a respectable two hours, instead of the three plus the whole play takes. The play ostensibly portrays the early phases of the War of the Roses, but it’s mostly political posturing and influence-grabbing attempts gone awry. Bloodiness comes primarily from a number of severed heads (a couple of which star in their own comedy bit). But the ending fight scene gives the promise of more armed conflict in the conclusion of the saga. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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