By William Shakespeare
Adapted by Adam Adolfo
With excerpts from Henry IV Pt. 1, Henry IV Pt. 2, Richard II, Henry VIII, Henry VI and Richard III
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Director: Adam Adolfo
Stage Manager: Timothy Betts
Set Designer: Edward Huntingdon
Costume Designer: Lauren Morgan
Head Seamstress: Peggy Jobes
Props Artisan: Nancy Waak
Lighting Design: FWCAC
Sound Design: Adam Adolfo
Original Piano and Cello Music: Joshua Bradford
Original Saxophone Music: Brian Best
Chorus - Cast
King Henry V - Carter Frost
King Henry IV/Duke of Exeter/Falstaff - Kirk Corley
Mrs. Cantebury/Duke of Orleans - Laura L. Watson
Mr. Ely/King Charles the Sixth - David Johnson
Fluellen - Thomas Fletcher
Gower - Christopher Reaves
Lord Scroop/Montjoy - Bay Scoggin
Sir Grey/Lady Rambures - Rene Sarradett
Michael Williams/Bardolph/Governor of Harfleur - Carloe Iruegas
Pistol - Eddie Zertuche
Mistress Quickly/Alice - Sally-Page Stuck
Nym/Monsieur Le Fur - Tyler Cochran
Boy - Dylan Peck
The Dauphin - Ian Moore
Princess Katherine - Heidi Lewis
Reviewed Performance 6/18/2011
Reviewed by Bonnie K. Daman, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
A simple stage: two levels, two benches, a small rise and one chair was all that was needed to set the scene for Henry V at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center's Sanders Theatre. Even Shakespeare was attune to the fact his play's setting was impossible to recreate within the confines of a theatre by asking of the audience "?can this cockpit hold the vastly fields of France? Or may we cram within this wooden O the very casques that did affright the air at Agincourt?"
This epic play was written to recount the English monarch's conquest of France in the 1400's, and so the telling of Henry V by the Stolen Shakespeare Guild was a monumental feat. With a cast of fifteen emboldened actors the heroic story was presented in a fashion that may surprise the most loyal of fans and give a new appreciation for the bard's historical play.
I applauded Director Adam Adolfo for his modern take on the tale of Henry V. He was correct in his appraisal of the original work, calling it "dry" and "dense" so I was somewhat taken aback and pleased to discover a performance that forewent the appearance of a Renaissance Faire and, with excerpts from Shakespeare's previous works, built a masterful story that was easy to follow and become absorbed in.
Some portions of the interpretation were a little difficult to accept such as the women portraying a typical male role. Not so much the fact the actor was female but the imposed romantic relationships and sensual advances created between characters seemed out of place.
Adolfo was skillful however at coaching his actors through some of the finer moments of the script. The famous motivational St. Crispin's Day speech spoken by King Henry didn't need the bravado as had been depicted in film and the simplistic setting with Henry's two closest advisors at hand was enough to satisfy the stirring sensation of the moment.
The very capable Carter Frost was well cast in the title role of Henry. If this show had been a two-hour monologue and Frost the performer I would have sat entranced all the same. Frost's ability to articulate Shakespeare's text was above and beyond that of a community actor. His delivery was conversational and had a natural flow.
Frost had the acting chops to shoulder the weight of the emotional journey of his character. Betrayal, mockery, sorrow, arrogance, camaraderie, love and royalty were merely some of the themes represented. Frost not only played them all with genuine feeling but was required to change sentiments from one scene to the next.
For instance, Adolfo's use of flashbacks throughout the show
demonstrated the balance between who Henry had become as a king and who he had been as a young man. In one scene Frost displayed Henry's pride and confidence in his men as they prepared to go to battle with France. Seconds later he became a younger version of himself, a boy who did not care to become king. I watched Frost transform into an insecure prince under the shadow of his father's vast rule and then back to present day as the brief memory encouraged his resolve to become the better man and king.
I appreciated Adolfo's casting of Henry as younger than what the audience might have expected and in this case he hit the mark with Frost. Overall he was intriguing and seemed wise beyond his years and I was completely engrossed in the performance.
Jack-of-all-trades to this cast was the versatile Kirk Corley. Listed as three characters in the playbill, Mr. Corley's chief performance was as the Duke of Exeter, uncle to Henry. His stand out role came as Sir John Falstaff, a knight known for his drunkenness and mischievous ways who was a companion to the young prince. Though the character was originally written for Henry IV, I was pleased that Falstaff was given a voice in this production if not only for Corley's sake. Corley gave a touching performance in Falstaff's climatic scene when the King banished him just after coronation.
A plot that ran parallel to the central story was the journey of the three English soldiers Nym, Pistol and Bardolph played by Tyler Cochran, Eddie Zertuche and Carlos Iruegas respectively.
The troupe interjected some bits of much needed comedy as did Dylan Peck as the Boy (See if you can spot their "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" pose). Zertuche was more prevalent and well-versed among the group, however they worked well together including Peck who stole a few brief moments within his scenes. In the second act Cochran's brief stint as Monsieur Le Fur and Iruegas as Michael Williams gave both men the opportunity to successfully play to their strengths.
Further stand out performances were given by Bay Scoggin and Heidi Lewis. Scoggin's role as Lord Scroop was what first brought him to my attention. Though the character was fleeting the interaction between him and Frost's Henry was moving as Scroop repented and pleaded for his life. As Montjoy, Scoggin seemed to endure the brunt of Henry's reactions to the conflict with France, and near the final act his portrayal of defeat was poignant but optimistic as new ties would be built between the two countries.
Finally Heidi Lewis as Princess Katherine was a delight to watch in the final "battle" King Henry was desperate to win ? a union of marriage between England and France. Her dialogue was nearly 100% in French and from the sound of it her delivery seemed flawless. Even more was her use of body language and expressions to help interpret the scene, and in the end she allowed Henry to woo her but on Katherine's terms.
Overall the entire cast was comfortable delivering the Shakespearean prose however it seemed more prominent when they were playing their main characters. Most everyone played parts of the Chorus and spoke directly to the audience as narrators but lines felt awkward and oddly syncopated. Once the actors stepped back into their main roles the feeling of detachment from the dialogue was no longer there.
English and French accents were absent from the lead cast members but I found the decision to be a smart move by the director. Instead, Adolfo concentrated on the minor characters and allowed those actors to utilize accents such as Irish, Scottish or French to define their roles. Though not perfect the addition or lack or an accent helped the audience differentiate characters due to several actors having multiple roles.
Costuming was an important factor in sorting out characters and the different nationalities. Laura Morgan as Costume Designer dressed Henry and the English in warm tans and reds while the French wore tones of grey and blue. Morgan kept in line with the director's vision for a modernized telling of Henry V that spanned across time. The ensemble was outfitted in a mix and match of pieces covering Elizabethan to modern day fashion.
As mentioned earlier, Edward Huntingdon's set was stationary and simplistic. The movement of actors in and around what few props were available was what created the setting for each act. Anything more would have detracted from the characters. The same could be said for the lighting. Since the play flowed from one act to the next, lighting was minimal except to darken the upper level of the set when not in use.
The director's choice of music was also different from the norm. Utilizing original compositions by musicians Joshua Bradford and Brian Best aided Adolfo's quest to modernize the play. The tunes had jazzy undertones very uncharacteristic for a Shakespearean play but worked remarkably.
I never claimed to be an expert on Shakespeare nor had I been too familiar with his written pieces save a few but I always enjoyed his work. My experience at the Stolen Shakespeare Guild was enlightening and educational because prior to this weekend I'd never experienced the telling of Henry V, not even on film. I would recommend catching this show because you may not see another version like it again.
THE PIED PIER'S MAGIC
Dallas Children's Theater
Rosewood Center for Family Arts
5938 Skillman Street, Dallas, 75231
Fridays June 17-July 15 at 7:30 pm
Saturdays June 18-July 16 at 1:30 and 4:30 pm
Sundays June 19-July 17 at 1:30 and 4:30 pm
NOTE: No performances on July 2nd and 3rd
Run time around 1 hour, 20 minutes, with one intermission.
Tickets are $14 to $25
Weekday Student Matinee performances are available Tuesdays through Thursdays. For tixs & info go to www.dct.org or c