BWW Reviews: Impressive HENRY V is Energetic, Brilliant, and Alluring
William Shakespeare's HENRY V is quite possibly his most well-known and celebrated history play. The famous climatic St. Crispin's day speech is full of nationalistic and patriotic rhetoric that resonates deep within the soul, mind and body while quickening the blood. Luckily for Houston audiences, Main Street Theater and Prague Shakespeare Company, Continental Europe's premiere professional English-language classical theatre company, is currently presenting a stellar production of William Shakespeare's HENRY V.
In the play, the young king Henry V decides to recapture French territories that were lost by kings Edward III and Richard II. Henry V's advisors acknowledge and verify the legality of his mission and his claim to the French throne. Henry V declares war against France and begins his campaign; however, the French Dauphin mocks Henry V by sending him a gift of tennis balls. Fearful of potential uprisings in England, Henry V leaves a large portion of the army behind so they may quell any problem that arises. Henry V and his small retinue of soldiers are constantly outnumbered but mightily press into France, shedding blood along the way. Facing 5 French soldiers to every 1 English soldier, the play reaches its climax at the Battle of Agincourt.
Guy Roberts' direction of HENRY V is incredibly swift and powerful. He deftly brings William Shakespeare's language to life, having each member of his cast utilize and understand the passion and drive behind every word uttered. The cast skillfully bends the fourth wall throughout the play by making eye contact with the audience and directly interacting with them. This deeply engaging device turns us into active participants in our observation of the play. Additionally, almost the entire cast shares responsibility in delivering the chorus lines, which are spoken directly to the audience. This enforces the idea that we are viewing a troupe of actors taking on roles for our enjoyment. Moreover, there is no flat line recitation, which aids the audience's ability to comprehend the resplendent, poetic language that is removed from our own daily language and what our modern playwrights use. Guy Roberts brings William Shakespeare's HENRY V to fantastic life while making the play accessible to those audience members familiar and unfamiliar with the work alike.
Staring as Henry V, Guy Roberts magnetizes the audience by bringing forth the young Henry's bold brilliance. The audience gets to see and know a king that is strong and charismatic, delightfully arrogant, and one who wants what is best for the general morale of his country. In the famed climatic speech, Guy Roberts' Henry V stands in the audience making eye contact with as many patrons and characters as possible, drawing every human in the venue into the elegiac rhetoric and igniting a passion for the English's victory within us all.
Philip Hays astoundingly plays a handful of roles and pristinely differentiates each one of them so that none overlap. He breathes life into Sir Thomas Grey, Bardolph, The Dauphin, and Michael Williams. His most memorable is his tragic Bardolph, who is made an example of after he is caught looting a French church. Being a close friend of Henry, his execution breaks the heart of those on stage and profoundly affects every member of the audience as well.
As Lord Scroop of Masham, Pistol, and Charles Delabreth, Rutherford Cravens gives extraordinary performances. His most memorable is his exuberantly virile Pistol. Pistol earns many a laugh from the audience as he crazily enjoys the bloodshed of war and prizes the battle.
Playing Duke of York, Nym, and Duke of Britaine, Jared Doreck delivers fantastic performances throughout the evening. His smirking and cross-legged Duke of Britaine earns grins from the audience; however, his alluring and gutsy Nym captivates with ease.
Jovan Jackson brings startling life to Duke of Exeter and Duke of Alencon. No mater the role, he perfectly delivers lines with such tangible passion, the audience is swept away by his words and believes them fully. He completely commits himself to both of the characters and majestically portrays them for our enjoyment.
Alternating between Montjoy and Bates, Crystal O'Brien delivers two phenomenal performances. Her Montjoy stands tall despite delivering messages that no one really wants to hear. Her Bates is brave and full of charisma.
The Earl of Cambridge, Macmorris, and Duke of Berry are all skillfully played by Mark Roberts. Using a heavy Irish accent, his standout performance is as the wonderfully comedic Macmorris.
As the boy Davy Gam, Jessica Boone, captivates the hearts of the audience. She creates a youthful and spirited air for the character. As Katherine, she is hilarious. The scenes where she is trying to learn English and the one where Henry V tries to woo her are much needed comedic relief in the show.
Seán Patrick Judge plays the Archbishop of Canterbury, Jamy, and the Duke of Orleans with skill. His comically Scottish Jamy is his standout performance, made perfect with a surprisingly thick and immaculate Scottish accent.
The rough and ready Bedford and the smarmy Grandpre are both fascinatingly played by Joe Kirkendall. Whether smeared with blood and mud or sitting cross-legged and grinning with self-satisfaction at his high manners, he infuses his character with unique life.
Celeste Roberts does great work as Mistress Quickly, Alice, and Governor Harfluer. She alternates between getting dirty fighting on the battlefield and amusingly helping Jessica Boone's Katherine learn English.
Bob Boudreaux's Earl of Westmoreland and Duke of Bourbon are adroitly played. He utilizes a different set of mannerisms for each character, making the disparate men highly distinguishable.
Bill Roberts' Duke of Clarence, Fluellen, and Rambures are all well played. He deftly brings each character to vibrant life.
Stephen Zinkgraf outstandingly plays Charles VI, King of France. He is understandably haughty, trying to stop the invasion of his lands.
Taiko Drummers Khechar Boorla and Nick Hill provide a thrilling and electrifying underscore throughout the performance. Starting with a pulsating overture and continuing throughout, the underscoring and sound effects offered by the pair emphatically enhance the performance.
Ryan McGettigan's Scenic Design is sparse. He mostly only utilizes painted bentwood chairs and a throne. However, with astounding inspiration he has decorated his hard wood floor with a map of England. He has elevated the stage floor, which allows for a miraculously arresting special effect that will wholly impress audiences. In fact, this specialized effect is so amazing, that I refuse to give it away in writing. It must been seen and experienced to believe!
Lighting Design by Carrie Cavins is poignant and affecting. She pristinely captures the emotions of each scene with her varied color washes, heightening the efficacy of the beautiful language that is delivered.
Margaret Crowley's Costume Design and Rodney Walsworth's Properties Design mirror each other and add an intriguing element to the play. Since HENRY V is a timeless classic, the approach in costuming and props is to mix and match elements from multiple time periods into the designs that do not shoehorn the production into any one specific time period. Instead, the audience is treated to a performance that appears to be done by a group of actors who grabbed whatever they could to pull the show off in a convincing way. Also, to distinguish the French from the English, Margaret Crowley has cleverly color-coded the characters. She uses red accents on display for the English and Blue accents on display for French characters.
Main Street Theater and Prague Shakespeare Company's production of HENRY V is a brilliant feat of theatrical craftsmanship and magic. The dynamic and energetic production is alluring, fascinating, and powerful. It draws the audience in and holds us close from beginning to end, ensuring that we follow every moment and are emotionally moved throughout the play.
HENRY V runs at Main Street Theater's Rice Village location at 2540 Times Boulevard through April 21, 2013. The production will travel to Prague later this fall. For more information and tickets, please visit http://www.mainstreettheater.com or call (713) 524 - 6706.
All photos by Forest Photography, courtesy of Main Street Theater.
Guy Roberts (King Henry V).
L to R: Joe Kirkendall (Duke of Bedford), Jessica Boone (Davy Gam), Mark Roberts (Macmorris), Bill Roberts (Fluellen), Jovan Jackson (Duke of Exeter), Seán Patrick Judge (Jamy) & Guy Roberts (King Henry V).
Guy Roberts (King Henry V).
L to R: Jovan Jackson (Duke of Exeter), Seán Patrick Judge (Jamy), Rutherford Cravens (Pistol), Crystal O'Brien (Michaela Bates), Celeste Roberts (Court), Bill Roberts (Fluellen), Guy Roberts (King Henry V) & Joe Kirkendall (Duke of Bedford)
Guy Roberts (King Henry V) & Jessica Boone (Katherine)