Photo Flash: Jonathan Epstein's Adaptation of HENRY IV Begins Tonight at Shakespeare & Company
A sweeping spectacle of bawdy buffoonery and bloody rebellion, director Jonathan Epstein's razor sharp and condensed adaptation of Henry IV delivers both parts in one dynamic evening of theatre at Shakespeare & Company. Performances run in the Tina Packer Playhouse today, August 2 - August 31. Press Opening is Friday, August 7, at 7:00pm. BroadwayWorld has a sneak peek at the cast in rehearsal below!
Shakespeare's take on honor, war, sex and violence has never been more acute than in this riotous comedy that inter-mingles the young-rascal-that-would-be-king, Prince Hal, with the psychological underpinnings of father/son relationships. Epstein sets Shakespeare's wildest history tale between a bustling 15th century Eastcheap and a more contemporary London, where both settings blend together as we follow this stirring history of succession to the throne. Meet the notorious Prince Hal, heir apparent, who rebels against his father, forsakes the court and engages in petty crime with that huge 'sweet creature of bombast,' the unruly knight Falstaff. When the Prince's nemesis, Hotspur, and the northern lords rebel, will Hal stay and continue carousing with his surrogate 'father' Falstaff or heed the call of duty from the ailing King Henry? An exhilarating and potent journey through time and history, Henry IV offers many of the most memorable characters and lines in Shakespeare's canon as it continues to captivate and mesmerize audiences over four centuries later.
The cast consists of many long time Company members, including Ariel Bock (Epstein's wife who plays Mistress Quickly), Henry Clarke (Hal), Kevin Coleman (Northumberland), Johnny Lee Davenport (Glendower), Jonathan Epstein (Henry IV), Malcolm Ingram (who steps into the role of Falstaff, which he played in the Company's 2006 The Merry Wives of Windsor), Robert Lohbauer (Justice), Alexander Sovronsky (Westmoreland, and also the music composer for the production), Michael F. Toomey (Peto, and who is also the fight choreographer for the production), and newcomers to the Mainstage Ben Epstein (Epstein and Bock's son who will play Francis), Tori Grace (Lady Mortimer), Kelly Kilgore (Lady Percy), Timothy Adam Venable (Hotspur). Several cast members cross over into A Midsummer Night's Dream including Johnny Lee Davenport, Jonathan Epstein, Malcolm Ingram, Robert Lohbauer, Alexander Sovronsky and Michael F. Toomey.
Henry IV, marks the Company's third 'bare Bard' of the season-which includes Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet-and has only 13 actors playing over 20 plus roles. The emphasis is on Shakespeare's text which makes the language the focus of the production including the relationships between the actors, and the actors and the audience. The concentration of the cast has to be total-besides playing their principle parts they become the citizens of the Court, the low brow of the pub, the mob, and the armies. The Company created its signature 'bare Bard' performance model over three decades ago, which typically features 6-10 actors playing multiple roles in a pared-down, incisive and fast paced production with minimal sets and costume elements. The 'bare Bard' mirrors many of the travelling performing troupes during Shakespeare's time when they were forced to move away from the cities and perform in the country to avoid the plague.
"Our designers," adds Epstein, "many of whom I've worked with for decades including Arthur Oliver who is creating our magnificent costumes, and Matthew Adelson who has created an outstanding and inventive lighting design, and newcomer Travis George who brings us one of the most ambitious and versatile sets I've worked on-have all worked in sync with each other to seamlessly create two colliding worlds. The set is three dimensional and includes ropes for the actors to move about the stage, the costumes follow the lines of the actors so they can freely move about and climb, if need be, on the rails in the Playhouse, or come up through the traps in the stage as they cross into multiple factions. The music and sound design is created by composer, musician, and musical director Alexander Sovronsky, who also performs in the play-having Alex in the show is a tremendous advantage because his music comes from such a visceral place of experience and insight. Added to all this of course is Susan Dibble's movement and choreography which supports the course of the stories and brings the audience along with us as we end, as I believe all of Shakespeare's plays did, with a rousing dance."
Sovronsky also created the music and sound design for A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sovronsky has a long list of Regional, Off-Broadway and Broadway composing credits. He has been collaborating on and creating musical interpretations and scores for S&Co. for many years. His work includes productions from As You Like It in 2012, The Beauty Queen of Leenane last season, to this year's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare's Will and Henry IV, Parts I & II.
Jonathan Epstein* twenty-second season as well as directing his adaptation of Henry IV, will perform in this season's A Midsummer Night's Dream. S&Co. credits include Gustave in Heroes; Morris Schwartz in Kaufman's Barbershop; Man in None But the Lonely Heart, King Lear (title role), Leontes (The Winter's Tale), Stephano (The Tempest), Touchstone (As You Like It), Dogberry (Much Ado About Nothing), Benedict (Much Ado About Nothing), Puck, Brutus (Julius Caesar), Jaques (As You Like It), Shylock (The Merchant of Venice) and dozens of others. Most recently he played the title roles in Titus Andronicus for Orlando Shakespeare Theater and The Jewish Jester for New Stages. This fall he will join the faculty of the Asolo/FSU Conservatory, teaching Shakespeare performance to the second-year MFA candidates, a position made possible by the Elayne P. Bernstein Fund. He is married to actress Ariel Bock.
For tickets, Gift Cards and information about the 2014 Performance Season, visit www.shakespeare.org, or call the Box Office at (413) 637-3353, or stop by in person at 70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA. Ticket prices for The Playhouse range from $15 to $80, with discounts from 10-50 percent off regular ticket prices for Groups, Students, Seniors, Teachers and the Military.