BWW Reviews: Jewel Box Theatre Presents LION IN WINTER
Jewel Box Theatre presents James Goldman's The Lion in Winter in their 56th season of productions chosen by their patrons. Director James Gordon has a fine cast who make the most of the humor in the production, but they also present the dramatic side of this dysfunctional family. By the end of the show we see just how animalistic human nature can be when one is in the grip of power, greed, and ambition.
This play is a fictional story of a historical family who ruled in England during the late 1100s. It refers to wars, land holdings and violent rebellions among family. The time and setting is a Christmas gathering set in the family castle. The characters were like feral animals wearing royal costumes speaking in a royal manner all the while looking for any way to destroy each other. This script was written in 1966 and seems to create a story that is terribly difficult to find the right balance of wit and drama yet director Gordon delivers a crowd-satisfying resolution within this dark play. Just like a fight in a public place or a car accident, we are allowed the interesting perspective of watching these witty monsters hone in on each other's weaknesses and attack with a vengeance. It is only in the finale we finally see this family have laid waste to the world around them and destroyed the life they've built together. Director James Gordon brings us to this devastation then delivers an almost hopeful finish that hints at the resilience of mankind, a trait that truly does separate us from animals.
The players seem to maneuver the ever-changing alliances for political gain much like a medieval House of Cards. The characters include King Henry II played by Rob May, Eleanor of Aquitaine by Jackie Smola, their three sons, John played by Dale Morgan, Geoffrey played by C.W. Bardsher, and Richard Lionheart played by Hunter Canedy. Alias, the French princess is played by Rachel Messer and Philip, King of France is played by Phillip Green.
While Goldman's script isn't historically accurate the dialogue is polished and witty and includes impassioned speeches. "What shall we hang, the holly or each other?" is one of the best lines in the show. The two Oklahoma veteran actors playing the battling couple bring years of skill to their roles. Under Gordon's direction, both actors create a multi-layered relationship that continually swings between love and hate. I'm not even sure either character ever knows exactly which place they are currently abiding throughout the story.
I am a huge advocate of live theatre and this story is one worth seeing. The actors and crew have worked incredibly hard and deserve the support of the theatre community in Oklahoma. I hope you will go see this show.
The Lion In Winter runs through March 23, 2014 at the Jewel Box Theatre. 3700 N. Walker, Oklahoma City, OK 73118. Call 405-521-1786 or visit the website at www.jewelboxtheatre.org