'Henry VI' Runs out of Breath in NY Shakespeare Marathon Although Well-Crafted, the Production Lacks Inventiveness
David Sterritt, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
The long-running Shakespeare Marathon, presented by the New York Shakespeare Festival, is gliding toward its conclusion next summer, when it will have presented fully staged productions of every tragedy, comedy, history, and romance that the Bard ever wrote.
As the event gallops down the homestretch, it's not surprising that its producers seem eager to reach the end of their lengthy enterprise. In a clever packaging move, they have taken three of Shakespeare's least popular plays - the "Henry VI" trilogy - and condensed them into a two-part minimarathon.
This is being promoted as one of the most contemporary-style offerings in the whole Marathon, making references to everything from the Los Angeles riots to rock-and-roll rebelliousness. It's also hyped as an adventurous experience, presenting a "wild play" in a manner that "builds from security into chaos." You wouldn't gather much of this from actually attending the production, though. As directed by Karin Coonrod, this "Henry VI" is a well-crafted production but hardly the explosively inventive show its creators would like us to anticipate. The story has great interest, focusing on a king who assumes his crown at the preposterously tender age of nine months, and crosses paths with Joan of Arc and Richard III, among many others, before meeting his death at the latter's hands. But the time is long gone when graffiti on the walls, black leather jackets on the cast, and toppling pillars on the stage can pass as bold new ideas in Shakespearean theatrics. Indeed, such gimmicks seem positively tame in an age when filmmakers routinely move "Richard III" to fascist Europe and make Romeo and Juliet the victims of a late Fedex delivery. The acting also has little innovation to offer, putting more emphasis on stage-bound posturing and high-strung vocal gymnastics than on the inward-looking psychologizing that might have made the characters seem truly in tune with modern interests. …