Review Roundup: What Did The Critics Think Of Tom Hanks in HENRY IV at the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles
This weekend, the cast and crew of Shakespeare's Henry IV, starring Academy Award-winner Tom Hanks, had their opening night!
"Henry IV," staged by Tony Award winning director Daniel Sullivan, features Harry Groener as Northumberland, Tom Hanks in his Los Angeles stage debut as Sir John Falstaff, Hamish Linklater as Hal, Joe Morton as Henry IV, and Tony winner Rondi Reed as Mistress Quickly.
This new "Henry IV" is presented by The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles (SCLA), under the artistic direction of Ben Donenberg, at The Japanese Garden on the West Los Angeles VA Campus. Tickets are available at shakespearecenter.org
The cast also includes Anthony Mark Barrow (Lord Bardolph, Vernon), Raffi Barsoumian (Hotspur, Pistol), Josh Clark (Worcester), Benji Coelho, James Michael Cowan, Jeff Marlow (Archbishop, Sir Walter Blunt), Chris Myers (Lancaster, Peto), Alexander Pimentel, Ray Porter (Douglas, Warwick), Chris Rivera (Poins), Emily Swallow (Lady Percy), Peter Van Norden, Geoffrey Wade (Westmoreland), and Time Winters (Bardolph, Mowbray).
Evening, outdoor performances of "Henry IV" run Tuesdays - Sundays at 8pm, now through July 1 at The Japanese Garden, located on the West Los Angeles VA Campus, 229 Patton Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90049 (near Golf Course; for GPS load address and ZIP CODE). The grounds are open at 6:30pm for pre-show picnics. Alcohol is not permitted on the grounds of the West LA Veteran Healthcare Campus.
The Shakespeare Center is providing thousands of complimentary tickets for veterans and active members of the military who enter their names and service information at www.ShakespeareCenter.org/military
Tom Hanks, along with his wife Rita Wilson, are long-time supporters of the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles through hosting and participating in the past 26 consecutive years of Simply Shakespeare, a no-holds-barred impromptu reading of a Shakespeare comedy with celebrity casts and musicians that raises funds and awareness about the Shakespeare Center's ground-breaking arts-based employment programs for veterans and inner-city youth.
The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles has 37 years of award-winning history in Los Angeles. For "Henry IV" an intimate stage with cushioned theatrical seating will be constructed on the meadow at The Japanese Garden on the West Los Angeles VA Campus by a veteran workforce. Dozens of picnic tables are available for pre-show picnic dinners. No alcohol is permitted at the West LA VA, as it is federal property with specific regulations. SCLA has produced critically acclaimed plays in this location between 1991-93 and 2011-2014.
Let's see what the critics have to say!
Maureen Lee Lenker, Entertainment Tonight: While Hanks is the main attraction here, he's amply assisted by a talented ensemble, with every member of the cast getting a chance to shine as the play volleys between drunken antics and more serious themes of rebellion, kingship, and violence. At 41, Hamish Linklater might seem an unusual choice to play the boyish Prince Hal, a young man reluctant to set aside his teenage mischief for the dour responsibilities of the crown. But he nails the role, offering a Hal who is clearly wrestling with the anxiety of his position. Linklater instills in Hal a constant restlessness, a simmering, pervasive worry that lingers just under the surface, tainting the joy and release of his thieving and carousing. His deft hand with Shakespeare's verse is also a marvel; delivering lines with a cadence and clarity that makes the Bard's dense prose feel contemporary and immediate.
Jordan Riefe, Hollywood Reporter: In the aftermath of fight director Steve Rankin's impressive battle scene, Sullivan's unwieldy adaptation combining the play's two parts moves into the second half of its lengthy running time of three hours and 20 minutes. Falstaff and Hal, the heart of the play, have fewer scenes together as new characters take to the stage - Justice Shallow (a hilarious Harry Groener, who doubles as Northumberland), Hal's brother Lancaster (Chris Myers) and Doll Tearsheet (a beguiling Emily Swallow) represent the best elements of a supporting cast that displays various levels of accomplishment.
Deborah Klugman, LA Weekly: This brings us to Hanks, the big-ticket draw, and I'm happy to report that he lives up to all expectations in his Los Angeles stage debut. Costumed into a barrel of a man, his bloviating Falstaff becomes every inch the maddening outrageous clown that Shakespeare must have intended him to be. The funniest moment may be when, in battle, Falstaff collapses and pretends to die before his confused opponent ever touches him with his sword. (The parallel between this character's gasbag behavior and that of our nation's narcissistic Bloviator-in-Chief compounds the ironic humor.)
Charles McNulty, LA Times: When not playing dead on the battlefield or scheming for glory by killing an already dead man, Hanks' Falstaff offers piercing ironic commentary on such concepts as honor and valor. The staging sometimes treats these speeches like favorite arias in a beloved opera. The lighting ponderously changes on Ralph Funicello's refreshingly bare wooden set before one of Falstaff's great monologues, but for the most part the production avoids becoming a highlight reel of "Henry IV."
Peter Debruge, Variety: Clearly, Hanks must be hiding somewhere beneath the bushy grey beard, extravagantly Gandalfian hairpiece, and pumpkin-pot-belly corpulence, but the transformation is more complete than any of his CG aliases (whether "Toy Story's" Woody or the five mo-cap characters he played in "The Polar Express") and so convincing that we may as well be discovering an entirely new actor on stage. It's not that Hanks has been rendered unrecognizable - for it's clearly him under all that blubber - but he adopts a body language that befits the drunken buffoon, stumbling on stage in sweat-stained tunic, goblet swilling in his ham-hock fist, to hoist his ample posterior upon the king's throne, until such time as Henry IV (Joe Morton) enters to assume his rightful place there.