BWW Review: Superb Acting Makes A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS Magnificent Drama
A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS by Robert Bolt started out as a radio drama for BBC Radio in 1954. It was adapted into an hour-long live television version in 1957 and finally was reworked by Bolt for the stage in 1960. After success on the West End and on Broadway, it was subsequently made into an Academy Award winning 1966 film and a 1988 television movie. The title refers to Bolt's portrayal of More as the ultimate man of conscience remaining true to his beliefs while adapting to increasingly horrific circumstances. Bolt borrowed the title from Robert Whittington, a contemporary of More.
The play tells the true story of Sir Thomas More (played by Roy Mullin), the Chancellor of England who refused to endorse Henry VIII's divorce of wife Catherine of Aragon. A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS portrays More as a man of principle loved by the commoners and his family (played by Wendy Zavaleta and Victoria Barton Rosenthal); but envied by Thomas Cromwell (played by Scot Friedman).
The play is narrated by the character of The Common Man (played by Garry Peters). The character plays various small roles throughout the play. The Common Man both takes part in and comments on the action. This character even breaks the fourth wall to address the audience directly. He serves two basic functions: to show the average person's place in history and to remind the audience that they are more closely related to him than any other character on stage.
At the heart of A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS are the ideas of identity and conscience. More repeatedly argues that a person is defined by his conscience. He believes that breaking with his conscience will condemn him to hell. While most of us are familiar with the capricious nature of Henry VIII (played by Levi Gore), Bolt gives us a deep look into how that nature destroyed a good man.
The play has the anti-authoritarian themes seen in much of Bolt's writing. People in positions of power - King Henry, Cromwell, Wolsey and Cranmer (both played by Mick D'Arcy), Chapuys (Larry Oliver), even Norfolk (Rick Felkins) - are depicted as ranging from corrupt and evil to power-hungry. This theme of corruption is also seen by the rise to power of Richard Rich (Denver Surgener) as well as the anachronistic portrayal of Henry as young and athletic when, in 1530, he was already in his forties and morphing into a more rotund King.
While the law is what eventually brings about Mores' execution, Bolt makes some powerful statements in support of the rule of law. When Mores' future son-in-law, Will Roper (Darren Scharf), urges him to arrest Richard Rich, More answers that Rich has broken no law. More is adamant that even the Devil should be afforded the rule of law.
What drives A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS is not history but rather the interior ordeal, the conflict of conscience. More battles his adversaries on an intellectual plane with a minimum of physical action. But, thanks to some brilliant witty writing and some stellar acting, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS is as exciting as if Sir Thomas and Henry battled it out with broadswords.
The drama presented here is magnificent. Jeff Hinkle guides the action in a fluid style that makes the evening fly by, keeping you totally engaged and engrossed. The acting in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS is an embarrassment of riches. Fine performances are delivered by all. However, Roy Mullin as Sir Thomas More and Garry Peters as The Common Man, are absolutely electrifying...and worth the price of admission alone.
The set and lighting by Andy Berkovsky are both simple and eloquent and while Bert Flanagan's costuming isn't always the exact period, it all works to evoke the time and place.
In short, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS is an excellent production of a modern classic that is worth both your time and your money.
A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS by Robert Bolt
Running time: Approximately Three Hours including one intermission.
A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, produced by City Theatre (3823 Airport Blvd. Suite D., Austin, Tx.) Feb. 12 - March 6, 2016. Thursdays - Saturdays 8:00 p.m., Sundays 5:30 pm. Tickets, call 512-524-2870 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. / www.citytheatreaustin.org