Review: ​​​​​​​Jobsite Theater Conquers Shakespeare's Dive Unto The Breach With A Modern Telling Of HENRY V at Straz Center

THE GAME’S AFOOT AND ADAM WORKMAN IS OUTSTANDING, MADE FOR THIS ROLE.

By: Apr. 08, 2021

Review: ​​​​​​​Jobsite Theater Conquers Shakespeare's Dive Unto The Breach With A Modern Telling Of HENRY V at Straz Center

"Once more unto the breach,dear friends, once more,

Or close the wall up with our English dead!

In peace theres nothing so becomes a man..."

-King Henry in Henry V Act III Scene 2

"For there is none of you so mean and base

That hath not noble luster in your eyes.

I see you standing like greyhounds in the slips,

Straining upon the start. The game's afoot."

-King Henry in Henry V Act III Scene 2

Jobsite the Independent In-Resident Theatre Company of the Straz Center as by annual tradition brought Shakespeare to Tampa Bay once again with the first of Shakespeare's History offerings to be staged locally. For me, Jobsite is the "Cream of the Crop" when it comes to presenting Shakespeare's works. No one in this region "Rocks the Bard" as hard, as relevant, and as daring as Jobsite and their players. David Jenkins and Giles Davies have outdone themselves here. To a rocking, and pulse-inducing score by Jeremy Douglass and flashes of projections making you feel like you're in a different time frame this production has it all. Henry V normally not the most sought-after of the History offerings is a stellar and triumphant display of magnanimous proportions and this cast is in true form.

Adam Workman more recently seen as Oberon in last season's stunning production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is in rare form here and it's his best yet. His moral dilemma is so exciting to watch, you often question does he redeem himself in the end? I think the most intriguing thing about Henry is the idea that he can speak so eloquently and so commanding. Often his failsafe in battle is to talk instead of fight which helps rally those involved in the battle. Henry was a good king yes, but far from perfect. I think his way with words gave him a strong sense of self and overall made him a good leader for the people. Adam's delivery of the text is commanding and powerful, you hang on every word. You see a true leader born into something not originally planned, however soon we find that what is not planned is deemed more a destiny and less of a sacrifice. Bar none worth every penny to see this truly incredible performance and probably the strongest I've seen to date.

With COVID-19 on the forefront of the news and everything we have come to know thus far, Artistic Director David Jenkins used that parallel as a driving force behind this production. David recently stated, "In the world of this play, there is hope and triumph over a period of darkness, at what seems like impossible odds- and this is a story we can all relate to and use right now." Set in a "Brechtian-Esque" style set designed by Brian Smallheer. 7 players make up the ensemble and Mr. Workman as Henry V makes up the eighth. Each character ascends into this world and each does so with as much gusto as the next. Think about that for a minute, seven players. Shakespeare imagined his world with 45 players and a chorus to tell this epic. Jobsite did so with 8 total. The decision to cut the text almost in half and assemble 7 individuals each playing multiple parts is gravitas in nature, and damn good. David Jenkins and Giles Davies exceptionally created a text that is so conceptualized and grounded in nature that at two hours and five minutes total, feels like a completely whole and never rushed masterpiece.

The company is marvelous, if I could join a round table and throw back a few "Grogs" this would be the company I'd like to keep. Assembled of some of the finest actors of our region, Roxanne Fay, Ned Averill-Snell, Brian Matthew Shea, Katrina Stevenson, Cornelio Aguilera, Kara Sotakoun, Lizzie Kehoe, and as previously mentioned Adam Workman, Jobsite has assembled formative performers to scale this epic tale. As I mentioned before each of the seven players making up the ensemble play anywhere from 3-5 different characters. Shakespeare's text alone can pose a challenge to even the finest of performers, and having to play a range of 3-5 separate roles in the same world is a feat all in itself. I commend this exceptional company for its work here.

Technically brilliant from the lighting design by Jo Averill-Snell from the deep reds to the flashes of yellow this world is exquisite. The previously mentioned set design by Brian Smallheer lent very well to this world, and moments, where Roxanne Fay climbed to the top of the flat, was so commanding with a sinister feel and so beautiful to experience. The video design by Director David Jenkins propelled this world into a technical marvel and the music composition composed by Jeremy Douglass made it feel like a rock concert and we were the spectators to this one-of-a-kind sensory offering. Katrina Stevenson's costumes worked exceptionally well, from bold reds to deep black it resonated with the world in which we witnessed.

More recently Henry V has received some depictions on the big and small screens respectively. Like The King, and The Hollow's Crown with big-name stars such as Timothee Chalamet and Tom Hiddleston in the leading role. Adaptations of Shakespeare's work help modernize the text and allow younger audiences, and audiences of all ages to experience the work in a new way. I will say this, though I feel not enough praise can be given about this exceptional production I do have one quarry. My one quarry with this piece is that there is so much going on, with the amount of dialogue and characters on the stage that someone who is not so well versed in Shakespeare may have a hard time following at points. I was fortunate enough to see this during their preview performance Wednesday night, any quarries aside this is must-see theatre at its finest.

Though seamlessly laid out, exceptionally acted, and technically brilliant Jobsite Theater and its ensemble deserve all the accolades here. Hurry on over to strazcenter.org or jobsitetheater.org for tickets to this incredibly concocted production that is as technically brilliant as it is acted. Don't hesitate as Opening Weekend is otherwise currently Sold-Out. Adam Workman and the cast deliver exceptionally well from start to finish. In true Jobsite nature they really "Rocked the Bard" and with Henry V they rocked it hard! This production by final curtain could easily become their highest-grossing Bard offering yet! This being my favorite of the History plays I for one can say, I'm thankful for Jobsite, thankful for a space in which they can create, and thankful more than ever that I got to witness this outstanding art at a time when we needed it more than ever. That alone is worth any price of admission.

Photo Credit: Jobsite Theater



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