BWW Review: Marin Theatre Presents a Regal ANNE BOLEYN

BWW Review: Marin Theatre Presents a Regal ANNE BOLEYN

Like its title queen, Howard Brenton's "Anne Boleyn" knocks at curiosity's door, difficult to grasp, but fascinating nonetheless.

Henry VIII nearly erased the historical figure from the books, and religious leaders and historians labeled Anne a martyr or a harlot over the years. In his revised history, Brenton offers a strong, clever Boleyn, the effective and vibrant Liz Sklar in Marin Theatre Company's West Coast Premiere. This Anne loves a tender Henry and considers herself an Esther positioned for "such a time as this." But Brenton also bookends his play with a mocking Anne who concludes her lengthy tale in an abrupt, contrived message disconnected from preceding material. Where "Boleyn" works best, however, is in its politics and religion, and it's a shame its final scene only briefly references that which an overall smart script has built.

Brenton wrote "Anne Boleyn" for London's Globe Theatre as a tribute to the King James Bible. According to this version of events, Boleyn has a strong Protestant faith and secretly meets heretic William Tyndale (a memorable Dan Hiatt). Tyndale's translation of the Bible serves as the base for James' authorized version and makes for an interesting plot point when James discovers Anne's handwriting in a hidden copy. The play goes back and forth between Anne's story and James' interactions with various heads of England and his lover George Villiers (David Ari, who also makes a delightfully devious villain as Thomas Cromwell). Consequences of Anne's reign continue as James considers how to unify England's factions while maintaining his authority as king.

Craig Marker, who doubles as Henry VIII, gives a magnificent and unassailable performance as James I, possessing a sharp wit, a strong Scottish accent and a grand, pronounced sense of humor. In a production where cast members play multiple roles, each character remains remarkably distinct. Ashley Holvick's costume design helps here, classic features highlighting modern looks that match the play's fresh sensibilities and Jason Minadakis' superb direction. The audience immediately feels a part of palace intrigue and secrets, drawn in by Nina Ball's stunning horizon lines and pillars, which extend into the theater. And Kurt Landisman's lighting design completes the exquisite atmosphere with castle shadows, cathedral windows and whispering forests.


Through May 15
Marin Theatre Company
Photo Credit: Kevin Berne

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