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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
I always imagine that Shakespeare's original audiences knew the characters of the history plays the way that I know the "Founding Fathers." They knew who Exeter was the way I know Ben Franklin, Cambridge, Scroop and Grey the way I know Benedict Arnold.
—Jenna Ware, director's program notes
Given the choice of a staged reading or a "bare bones" production of Shakespeare, versus no Bard at all I'd quickly opt for the former. But despite the good intentions of such limited presentations, all of Shakespeare's plays do not equally work well under such compressed circumstances.
Ryan Winkles in the title role
Experience suggests that plays with a linear structure and a limited perimeter of action and characters work best. Hamlet (which was done here in a "bare bones" staging) is one that is easily assimilated, as would be Macbeth or Othello. The histories — not so much. Henry V is played on two continents, and involves two royal houses and ends with a war. That's a lot of territory and personnel.
With a small cast, the actors must assume many roles and often play characters of the opposite sex. The beauty of the language is often hampered by the effort needed to keep a clear perspective.
I don't think audiences (except the dedicated Bard lovers) are comfortably familiar with the plots, counterplots, villains and comic characters and presenting them in a controlled chaotic manner doesn't always keep the dramatic compass steady.
That said, the nimble cast here gives it their best. There are many moments where their talent, the director's hand and Shakespeare's magic are co-joined and accessible.
Ryan Winkles was very persuasive as the fledgling king, and Jonathan Croy ably tackled not only the roles of the Duke of Westmoreland and the King of France, but also Pistol a left over blackguard from Prince Hal's drinking days. Alas, Falstaff has been left behind, but there would be little room for his roly-poly self in this busy staging.
Henry V by William Shakespeare|
Directed by Jenna Ware
Cast: Ryan Winkles, Jonathan Croy, David Joseph, Sarah Jeanette Taylor, Kelly Galvin, Jennie M. Jadow, Tom Jaeger and Caroline Calkins
Set design: Patrick Brennan
Costume design: Govane Lohbauer
Lighting: James W. Bilnoski
Sound design/composer: Andy Talen
Stage Manager: Fran Rubenstein
Choreography: Sarah Jeanette Taylor
Running time: Two hours, plus one 15-minute intermission.
June 18 through August 23
Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, Shakespeare and Company, Lenox, Mass.
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