Sunday, May 24, 2015
Somerville’s Actor ‘s Shakespeare Project: Henry the Vl, Part 2
Review by Doug Holder
After having a beer at my old haunt Jacob Wirth in the theatre district of Boston, I chased it down with excellent seafood Chou Fun at some Vietnamese joint on the edge of Chinatown. But I still had a hunger, and that was for theatre. So with my press ticket in hand I walked down Washington Street to Suffolk University’s Modern Theatre to take in a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry Vl, Part 2, as presented by Somerville’s Actor’s Shakespeare Project. The first review I got of the play was by an earnest young usher by the name of Xavier Harvey who assured me that the play was well-worth my while. He opined “It starts out slow, but it really gets going.” Harvey said he hopes to be on stage someday and I think he may well—or at the very least he will be a critic.
The play is directed by Tina Packer, a world class director and interpreter of the Bard’s work. Henry V, Part 2, is the middle of a trilogy of Henry plays written by a very young Shakespeare. It concerns the Earl of Suffolk (played by Craig Mathers) and his calculated power play in the court of the young and untried King Henry Vl ( well-played by Jesse Hinson). Suffolk hooks up Henry with a French Princess, Margaret (played by Jennie Israel), who looks old enough to be Henry’s mother. The other feral nobles of Henry’s court don’t like this, and a bloody power play ensues. Henry, who in this production resembles a long blonde-haired hippy, seems to have an airhead affect at first, as if he had too much of the royal Ganga. But throughout, he is a blonde fame to the darkness displayed by many of the sharks in his court.
The play is a real probe into the dark night of the soul, as the players on stage jockey for power and position. The greed evoked by the accomplished actors in this production is opened like a fresh, flesh wound. The set is simple but evocative. It lets the darkness unfold—punctuated by hopeful light that breaks through the slats.
Since my brother Donald Holder is a multi-Tony Award winning lighting designer—I always look at the lighting in a play. Lighting designer Daniel H. Jentzen illuminates the tension, isolates the players in their private moments of sorrow with the unforgiving spotlight, and frames much of the play dramatically.
Many of the actors here play multiple roles. Allyn Burrows, the artistic director of the company, plays Gloucester, an uncle and protector of Henry. He gives the character gravitas and a sense of decency amidst this ship of fools. Steven Barkhimer, with is rubbery face and his Vaudevillian missteps, provides a great deal of comic relief in many of the roles he plays. There are many accomplished performances in this winning production.