The New Ensemble Theatre is to be commended for undertaking the monumental task of depicting the life of King Henry V through scenes from the tetralogy of Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and of course Henry V. Henry V appears as Prince Hal in both Henry IV plays. From his early years in a tavern to his victory at the Battle of Agincourt and marriage to Princess Katherine of France, Henry V was a charismatic leader, who despite his obvious faults fascinated Elizabethans. Six actors played all the roles in a confusing, often convoluted retelling that would make sense to only the most seasoned Shakespearean scholar, leaving the mostly civilian audience in the dark. With no program notes or a guide to the scenes, it was rough going despite intelligent, and sometimes inspired, work by the talented cast. Sadly, the actors were far too young to be convincing in many of their characterizations, and the sameness of the scenes, and Paul Angelo's static direction, fell flat, even though the production was a scant 100 minutes long.
David Look showed the greatest versatility, with memorable characterizations of Richard II, Prince John, and the Dauphin. Kurt Kingsley provided much-needed comic relief as the indolent, witty, and irreverent Falstaff, and Nell Gwynn, the only woman in the cast, was a vibrant whirlwind as the Chorus and was a warm and sensual Princess Katherine. Todd W. Jones was an appealing, high-powered Hotspur and displayed maturity and dignity as the King of France. Director Angelo was an engaging Prince Hal in scenes from Henry IV parts 1 and 2. Don Carlson portrayed the dying Henry IV with nobility and empathy.
The late Robert Prentice's scenic design consisted of various gray set pieces that allowed for ease of movement from scene to scene, and Christina Patrick's bright red-and-blue costumes looked great against the similarly colored backdrops. Eric Chase's lights added a jewel tone to the costumes. The original music by Into Red Giant, with some help from Vivaldi, added urgency and vibrancy to the performance.
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Copyright 2001 Julie Halpern