BWW Review: A Little Touch of Harry in the Night: TAM Opens HENRY V
One of Shakespeare's best-loved history plays, Henry V, opened Friday July 23 at Maine's Theater at Monmouth in a stylish and stirring performance directed by Mark Mineart. Trimmed to a little over two hours, the production, nonetheless, keeps the architecture of the masterpiece and all the most famous speeches, and performed as it is by a strong ensemble, it achieves an immediacy and truthfulness.
Mineart's staging is lean and muscular, and, by virtue of necessity, doubles some of the characters and uses women in trouser roles to complete the ensemble of English and French soldiers and courtiers. The fight choreography by Leighton Samuels is vigorous and bold, suggesting a panoramic dimension. Mineart's touch is deft and restrained, so that none of the bravado or comedy is exaggerated; rather he asks the excellent cast to find the humanity in the characters.
Jake Loewenthal is an admirable and appealing King Harry. This is a young king whose wild exploits are not that far behind him, but who has clearly grown wiser and more temperate by wearing the crown. Loewenthal conveys the King's compassion and his core of moral strength, made all the more sympathetic by the very vulnerability which underlies them. He possesses a quiet fire for the battle speeches, delivering "Once more unto the breach" with conviction and courage and the St. Crispin's Day rally as much an effort to inspire his troops as to steel his own resolve. But perhaps his finest moments come in the scene before the battle when Harry in disguise wanders among his men taking the temperature of their feelings and fears. Moreover, he offers a charming comic spirit as an awkward soldier forced to play the suitor in the final scene with the French princess.
Janis Stevens lends an elegant presence and rich diction to the Chorus, shaping her famous prologue and other monologues with a sense of wonder and transport. She also brings a warm, earthiness to the Hostess and an endearing wit to Alice, Katharine's lady-in-waiting. James Hoban offers some nice acting contrasts as a dignifiEd French King, a stalwart Westmoreland, and an amusing Corporal Nym. His other two comic cohorts, Christopher Holt as the loquacious Welshman Fluellen (sporting a note-perfect accent) and Bill Van Horn as a rustic, plainspoken Pistol handle their scenes with flair. Mark Cartier creates a quartet of nobles, turning in an especially deft account of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Tim Kopacz appropriately plays the Dauphin with pompous egotism, while Erica Murphy gives the French herald Montjoy a noble dignity, and Chris White is an imposing, velvet voiced Exeter. Kelsey Burke limns a spirited Katharine; her sense of timing, command of French, and humorous mangling of the English tongue give substance and charm to her two scenes. Rounding out the ensemble nicely are Michael Dolan as a touching boy soldier, Joe Mariani, Rob Glauz, Blythe Coons, Lucas Calzada, and Isabella Etro in a series of supporting roles.
Brittany Vasta's spare stage design constructed of slatted panels and muslin curtains, evokes the unvarnished strength of this martial tale, while Jason Fok's atmospheric lighting transforms the stage from the glitter of court to the flicking firelight of the camp on the eve of the battle. Kathleen Payton Brown's costumes constructed in richly textured fabrics and striking colors artfully distinguish English from French and lend the otherwise simple production an air of elegant substance. Rew Tippin handles the sound balance effectively and supplies the period fanfares and transition music.
Shakespeare's Henry V's appeal as a character is in the combination of youthful, sometimes brash courage with an inner strength and emerging wisdom and compassion. TAM's latest production gives the audience an honest engaging portrait of a boy's becoming a man, and of a man's discovering the meaning of true kingship.
Photo courtesy TAM
Henry V runs in repertoire at the Theater at Monmouth, 796 Main Street, Monmouth, ME from July 23-August 20, 2016. www.theateratmonmouth.org 207-933-9999