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LETTERS TO EDITOR
The season opener directed by Fuller himself is a bold, perhaps controversial take on Henry V. Set in Vietnam, this Henry draws parallels between the English campaign in France and the American effort to defeat the communist advance into South Vietnam. Whether such a comparison makes good historical sense is perhaps best left to the informed viewer. As an occasion for theatrical invention, however, Fuller and his artistic staff largely succeed. This production stimulates contemporary memory while finding a new context for Shakespeare's poetic text.
. Scenic and lighting designs by Giles Hogya go a long way toward fulfilling Fuller's vision. The stark bamboo forest reminds one of staged versions of the Japanese classic Rashomon. The simplicity of Hogya's design combined with stage smoke and red spots can't help but remind audiences of such filmic evocations of the Vietnam experience as Apocolypse Now and The Deer Hunter. We are in recognizable territory, haunted at once by the exotic and the familiar. The storm trooper entrances, the GI Joe costumes, and the amplified gunfire remind us that we are not far from our collective mid-60s' nightmare.
Harris Berlinsky as the Chorus, Abe Goldfarb as Pistol, and Michael Surabian as Canterbury do well in their respective parts. Christopher Black's Bardolph made a strong impression, as did the rest of the cast, who by and large fulfill their task of speaking Elizabethan English while wearing contemporary dress to create a coherent cultural whole.
The burden of the production falls on the shoulders of Jason Crowl as young King Henry the Fifth. Crowl performed brilliantly last year in the Tennessee Williams and was impressive in the Strindberg. He has a modern temper and a magnificent stage voice: a rare combination. He plays his Henry as the quiet American. There is little flair, no bombast, and no histrionics. Oddly, while this performance no doubt fits Fuller's larger vision, it flattens a role otherwise known for its capacity to raise the roof. One wishes to be stirred and shaken; here we are left unmoved. Perhaps this is the effect sought by this fine actor, but some like myself may feel disappointed.
Henry V begins Cocteau's season with a literal bang. One looks forward to seeing what further surprises this courageous theatre company has in store for the rest of the year.
LINKS TO OTHER HENRY V PRODUCTIONS REVIEWED AT CurtainUp
Henry v(London --2001)
Henry V Shakespeare & Co., (Berkshires
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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