Saturday, October 25, 2008

Henry IV

Seattle Shakespeare Company
October 23 - November 16, 2008
Get tickets online at Seattle Shakes Online

As is the same with every Seattle Shakespeare show I have attended, Henry IV did not disappoint. The twist that was added this night was the binding of parts 1 and 2 of Shakespeare’s piece into 1 night of entertainment. One would think this would make for a long night, but the talent, excitement and energy of the production makes time a non-issue. The cast’s communication not only aids their effectiveness in relating the story, but drives the audience into England and makes the characters come alive.

Henry IV follows the story of King Henry IV (David Pichette) and his relentless struggle with his estranged son, Hal (Tim Gouran), who has given over to a life of drinking and parties with a man named Falstaff (Richard Ziman). As the plot progresses, unrest boils in the King’s realm and Hal is finally forced to face his father and decide how his transition into responsibility and manhood will progress. This powerful interaction brings into question fate, passion, devotion and responsibility, bringing the relation to modern day and human reality to the thoughts of the audience.

Tim Gouran and David Pichette
Photo Credit: John Ulman

The momentum of the production was strong and kept the action moving from scene to scene. Even the set (Pete Rush) and its simple display effectively aids the action, allowing the movement to flow easily from moment to moment while clearly defining the setting. As part of the set, a row of hanging chains plays a pivotal part in fight sequences, heightening the anticipation and artfully bringing a new dynamic to the seating arrangement, which placed two audience spaces facing each other across the stage. Complimented by a descriptive lighting display (Tim Wratten), the story and its concepts were made even clearer and apparent.

This smooth transitional element is also evident in the direction that Stephanie Shine applies to the production. Aside from the difficult blocking that allows both sides of the audience to see the action and experience the emotion, the character development of the key roles, Prince Hal’s move from boy to man and King Henry’s change from ruthless leader to falling legend to name a few, were developed with an ease that speaks to the humanness of the situation.

The aforementioned talent the cast displays is apparent in the way that transition can be made instantaneously between side-splitting humor, which at times manifested itself in skillfully directed eye contact with audience members, and gripping dramatic moments. The beautiful skill of Shakespeare’s writing reflects this quick pace change as the key pivotal moment in the show where Hal hears of the imminent unrest explodes out of a raucous party filled with mocking humor and high frivolity. To follow these very human ideas of frivolous excitement to immense responsibility is a challenge, and one that the production carries through.

Adorned with rich colored costumes (Pete Rush) that accentuate the standing in society and aid the set in telling the story, the cast along with the production crew, design team and all members of the Seattle Shakespeare Company pull off a great evening of talent and entertainment to tickle the senses. Catch Henry IV at the Seattle Center – Center House Theatre Oct. 23 – Nov. 16, 2008.

Reviewed by: Rick Skyler

1 comment:

Lia Morgan said...

Hey, Rick...

Who played Hal & Henry & Falstaff? (....i'm so confused....;)