Review Roundup: HENRY V at Hartford Stage

Review Roundup: HENRY V at Hartford Stage

Henry V is the first Shakespeare production, and the second play overall, in Hartford Stage's 55-year history to be staged in the round. In addition to Grush, the ensemble cast - comprised of half men and half women - features Karen Aldridge as Exeter, Miles Anderson as Pistol, Kate Forbes as the Constable of France and Burgundy, Peter Francis James as the Chorus and Sir Thomas Erpingham, Felicity Jones Latta as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Nym and Alice, and Baron Vaughn as Fluellen and Mistress Quickly. Hartford Stage Associate Artistic Director Elizabeth Williamson will helm the production, which marks her Shakespeare directorial debut for the Tony Award-winning theatre.

"Elizabeth Williamson has assembled a splendid company of actors and designers for her provocative and innovative staging of a Shakespeare masterpiece," Tresnjak said.

In Henry V, shortly after gaining the throne, Henry must decide whether or not to embark on a war that could solidify his reign-or bring his country to its knees. In France, he grows up fast under the pressure to use all means necessary to win a war against tremendous odds. But even if he finds victory, how easy will it be to settle the peace?

Williamson previously directed the world premiere of Seder, by Sarah Gancher, and Caryl Churchill's Cloud 9 at Hartford Stage. A dramaturg as well as a director, her credits include Matthew Lopez's The Inheritance, which is transferring to London's West End this fall, and the Hartford Stage world premieres of the Tony Award-winning musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder; Big Dance Theatre's Man in a Case; Matthew Lopez's Reverberation; Christopher Shinn's An Opening in Time; Bess Wohl's Make Believe; and the new musical Anastasia, currently on Broadway. She has served as dramaturg for many Shakespeare productions, including Hartford Stage's Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Williamson has also worked with the American Conservatory Theater, HERE, La Jolla Playhouse, Pioneer Theatre Company, Primary Stages, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and many others.

Stephen Louis Grush (Long Day's Journey into Night, Geffen Playhouse; Sex with Strangers, Geffen Playhouse and Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Romeo & Juliet, Chicago Shakespeare Theater) will make his Hartford Stage debut as Henry. Grush is joined by Karen Aldridge (Matilda the Musical, Broadway; Le Costume, The International Centre for Theatre Research; Twelfth Night, Chicago Shakespeare Theater) as Exeter; Miles Anderson(Macbeth, Royal Shakespeare Company; Oliver!, West End; Heartbreak House, Hartford Stage) as Pistol; Liam Craig (Boeing Boeing, Broadway; Seder, Hartford Stage; The Tempest, Shakespeare Theatre Company) as the French Ambassador, Bardolph, and Gower; Kate Forbes (Macbeth, Broadway; The Merchant of Venice, TFANA/Royal Shakespeare Company; Hamlet, Hartford Stage) as the Constable of France and Burgundy; Peter Francis James (On Golden Pond, Broadway; Much Ado About Nothing, The Public Theater; The Maids, Classic Stage Company) as the Chorus and Sir Thomas Erpingham; Felicity Jones Latta (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, National Tour; Metamorphoses, Broadway; Cymbeline,Hartford Stage) as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Nym, and Alice; Anthony Michael Lopez (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, National Tour; Othello, New York Theatre Workshop; The Penalty, The Public Theater) as the Dauphin and MacMorris; Nafeesa Monroe (Hello Herman, Pioneer Theatre Company; Proof, Quick Silver Theater Company and CiC Theater; Love's Labour's Lost, Shakespeare & Company) as the King of France, le Fer, and Bates; Jamie Rezanour (Queens for a Year, Hartford Stage; A Midsummer Night's Dream, Classical Theatre of Harlem; Our Town, Milwaukee Repertory Theater) as Montjoy, Orleans and Cambridge; Evelyn Spahr (Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, New York Theatre Workshop; Uncle Vanya, Harold Clurman Laboratory; Remarkably Normal, National Tour) as Katherine and Boy; and Baron Vaughn (Damn Yankees, New York City Center; Drowning Crow, Manhattan Theatre Club; Grace and Frankie, Netflix) as Fluellen and Mistress Quickly.

Mark Lawrence, Haley Tyson, and Reid Williams, students at The Hartt School at the University of Hartford, have been cast in the Ensemble.

In addition to Williamson, the creative team includes Set Designer Nick Vaughan (Seder and Cloud 9 at Hartford Stage); Costume Designer Beth Goldenberg (Queens for a Year, Hartford Stage; Engagements, Second Stage Theater); Lighting Designer Stephen Strawbridge (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hartford Stage; Passion Play, Yale Repertory Theatre); Sound Designer Matt Hubbs (Indecent, Broadway; Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, American Repertory Theater); Composer/Original Music by Christian Frederickson (Sound design for The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, Hartford Stage; Composer, Trojan Women (After Euripedes), Siti Company). Yan Chen, Hartford Stage Artistic Apprentice, will serve as Dramaturg.

Robyn M. Zalewski (A Midsummer Night's Dream and A Lesson from Aloes at Hartford Stage) will serve as Production Stage Manager, with Nicole Wiegert as Assistant Stage Manager (A Midsummer Night's Dream and A Lesson from Aloes at Hartford Stage).

Let's see what the critics have to say!

E. Kyle Minor, New Haven Register: Great casting and brilliant performance, of course, cover a multitude of such sins. Aldridge and Vaughn, as mentioned earlier, give splendid performances (Vaughn's Mistress Quickly is among the most honest and moving turns herein). Peter Francis James gives a thoughtful and playful performance as The Chorus, who interjects the most beautifully written dispatches from the field since they days of Julius Caesar (James also doubles as Sir Thomas Erpingham).

Nancy Sasso Janis, Patch: All of the actors did well with the language and their historical characters. Karen Aldridge (MATILDA the Musical on Broadway) made her Hartford Stage debut in the role of Duke of Exeter. Miles Anderson (LA LA LAND) took on the roles of Bishop of Ely and was most memorable as Pistol. Liam Craig (SEDER) played the French Ambassador, Bardolph and Capt. Gower. Kate Forbes played the constable of France, Governor of Harfleur and Duke of Burgundy.

Tim Leininger, Journal Inquirer: A major issue though was the choice to contemporize the play. The modern military clothing made many of the various characters indistinguishable, especially since most of the cast was portraying multiple roles. It became indiscernible at times as to which character an actor was portraying at a given time.

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