Review: Pioneer Theatre Company's THE LION IN WINTER is Regal and Relevant

By: Jan. 07, 2019
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Review: Pioneer Theatre Company's THE LION IN WINTER is Regal and Relevant

THE LION IN WINTER at Pioneer Theatre Company is a regal production that also feels relevant to contemporary life.

THE LION IN WINTER by James Goldman is a 1966 Broadway play, which was adapted to a well-known 1968 film starring Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn. It is a fictitious account of England's King Henry II and the machinations of his wife and sons to determine his heir and the fate of his kingdom.

Esau Pritchett as Henry and Celeste Ciulla as Eleanor lead the phenomenal cast with strength and majesty as they roar and purr through the family drama.

William Connell as Richard, Damian Jermaine Thompson as Geoffrey, Austin Reed Alleman as John, Grayson DeJesus as Philip, and Maryam Abdi as Alais fill their roles with dexterity and personality.

The purposefully anachronistic dialogue helps the audience see themselves in the characters, and director Wes Grantom takes it a step further with American accents, in addition to color blind casting. The lush period costumes by Phillip R. Lowe contribute to this with their nods to contemporary fashion, and especially some of the trendy clothing pieces the younger characters wear. The set by Jason Simms and the way it is lit by Driscoll Otto simultaneously give the feeling of both immense space and confinement, with a period look but a hint of modern flare.

The dialogue unfortunately sounds distant and is not always completely audible, highlighting a perpetual problem with sound for straight plays at Pioneer Theatre Company, which has flared up with more urgency this season. The decision has been made for plays to only utilize floor microphones rather than individually amplifying the actors. However, in most instances this does not adequately magnify the sound in such a large space except when the actors are raising their voices. When audience members know they will need to check out assistive listening devices at each straight play in order to enjoy their experience, it means that the volume needs to be turned up or a different method of picking up the sound employed.

Pioneer Theatre Company consistently produces high quality theatre, and THE LION IN WINTER is no exception with its strong concept, execution and entertainment value.

THE LION IN WINTER plays through January 19, 2019. For tickets, call the box office at 801-581-6961 or visit

Photo Credit: Cast of THE LION IN WINTER


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