Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2

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Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2

Presented by the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Chicago, Illinois. May 10-June 18, 2006. At the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, July 6-15, 2006. Directed by Barbara Gaines. Set by Neil Patel. Costumes by Virgil C. Johnson. Fights by Robin McFarquhar. With David Lively (King Henry IV), Jeffrey Carlson (Henry, Prince of Wales), Robert Scogin (Lord Chief Justice, Worcester) Braden Moran (Sir Walter Blunt, Mouldy), Greg Vinkler (Falstaff), Lusia Strus (Mistress Quickly), Timothy Edward Kane (Poins), Dan Kenney (Bardolph), Ross Lehman (Peto, Rumor), Kevin Gudahl (Pistol, Douglas, Lord Bardolph), Susan Hart (Doll Tearsheet), Bruce A. Young (Northumberland, Vernon), John Douglas Thompson (Hotspur), Kate Fry (Lady Percy), John Reeger (Glendower, Archbishop of York, Davie), Brian Herriott (Mortimer, Bullcalf), Jessie Mueller (Lady Mortimer), Mike Nussbaum (Shallow), Dale Benson (Silence), Matt Hawkins (Shadow), Richard Manera (Wart), Jay Whittaker (Feeble), and others.

For a short run, The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre mounted both parts of Henry IV as a single package taking about six hours, including an interval in each play, and a dinner break between the plays. After the run, these productions were reincarnated on the Royal Shakespeare Company's Swan stage as part of the RSC's Complete Works season. The transition should have been easy: the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier is modeled on the Swan.

Henry IV, Part 1, opened with the King lying in bed, with his crown next to him on a blood-stained white pillow, clearly foreshadowing the sick-bed scene in Part 2. The King awoke with a start, as if suffering a nightmare. A quick change of scene gave us the same bed, but now with both Falstaff and Hal in it, both of them with whores, establishing a Hal who was fully as debauched as his companions. At the end of that scene, Hal delivered his "I know you all" monologue angrily, with a strong sense of self-contempt. He never outgrew this immature petulance, but his abrupt shift from playing a prank on Francis in Eastcheap to "I am not yet of Percy's mind, the Hotspur of the North" did seem to arise out of a sudden, if temporary, awareness that he was frittering his life away in debauchery and immature foolery.

The skit in which the Prince and Falstaff alternated playing the King and the repentant Hal was lively and entertaining, but Hal's "I do, I will" at the end seemed casual, presaging nothing beyond the playful moment. Much more ominous was the entry of the Sheriff a moment later. He bullied one of Hal's low companions, and was about to look behind the arras for Falstaff when the Prince prevented him from doing so. This was the dutiful and loyal Justice of Part 2, with a hint of police brutality in him.

In some ways, the rebels were more attractive in their leisure than the royal party, though not free of contention among themselves. In his attempt to impress Hotspur with his importance, Mortimer demonstrated his magical powers by producing an explosion from the end of his staff. But after they patched up their quartel, the map scene became idyllic as the warriors spent a few moments with their ladies. …


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