Men, women mix it up in compelling 'Henry IV'After the mostly silent page beseeches the audience to hear his speech and see his curtsy at the end of Sunday's performance of Shakespeare's "Henry IV" and suggests that is might be "a displeasing play," another voice is heard with an equally simple and direct plea: "If you enjoyed this show, please tell your friends. We have some reservations, but not enough."
The request is a fair one. It's hardly a displeasing production -- long, yes; displeasing, no.
The voice belonged to J. Clark Nicholson, who not only directed this 20th production of the Harrisburg Shakespeare Festival but also served as half of the team that consolidated parts I and II of "Henry IV."
It's a shame that the unusually cast show doesn't seem to be generating larger audiences. But the hope is that his request will ignite a rush to the box office of the Gamut Classic Theatre on the third floor of Strawberry Square. Because of the energy of a large and talented cast, it's more than worthy of consideration by area theater lovers. Shakespeare fans will get more than their money's worth as the program runs 31/2 hours, including intermission.
In addition to putting together the parts that Shakespeare wrote as separate plays in 1597 and 1598, Nicholson assigned women to play the four major male roles and many of the less prominent ones. In another gender reversal, he cast two men in female roles. It does make an audience sit up and take notice when they see Melissa Nicholson (the director's wife) sitting on the throne as the title character discussing the events of the day with male and female members of the court. They're all supposed to be men, of course; that's what the Bard had in mind.
Then, Amber E. Wagner shows up as the king's playboy son and heir apparent, Prince Hal, looking pert and pretty in short bob. And Karen Ruch, properly padded and blustery, appears to more than fill the role of Sir John Falstaff, the plump and aging knight who's been teaching Hal how to enjoy the raunchy things of life.
The fourth member of the key quartet is Melissa Dunphy, dark-haired, dark-eyed and full of anger. She plays the fiery Hotspur (Henry Percy) with an intensity and rage that make her a compelling figure to watch. Unfortunately, Hotspur is killed off in Act I, but fortunately, Dunphy, like 11 other members of the 15-member cast, has multiple roles. So she returns to the stage.
I'm rather pleased. In fact, you could say that the review, along with a rather smashing NIN concert last night at the MCI Center in Washington DC (we were in the second row hard stage left - I am a little deaf in my right ear), saved a week which was shaping up to be something of a downer. Yesterday I accidentally put Falstaff's red cloak in a combined wash and turned King Henry's shirt bright pink. I think I've saved it with bleach, but I'll have to check when I head to the theatre today. The day before, my e-cock grew stiff and pointed itself firmly in the direction of Diana Martin at the e-mail address email@example.com. I'm giving her maybe 48 more hours to explain herself before I ... well, perhaps I'll make that a surprise. I'm pretty sure it's going to involve some form of pornographic fanfiction, however.
Good lord, Al and I idolized Graham Young a little when we were in high school. I remember we used to jokingly ask Dr. Kerr if there was any thallium in the lab in Chemistry class. I still love that movie. The homages to A Clockwork Orange are terrific. At least, I think they're homages. Maybe I just had A Clockwork Orange on the brain.
Speaking of news, I noticed the other day that Sight & Sound theatre has bought banner advertising on Portal of Evil News. God, that's hilarious.