Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Hal Harry Henry"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi


"HAL HARRY HENRY"

selected text by William Shakespeare
adapted and directed by Shawn Cody

Prince Hal (King Henry V) … Noel Joseph Allain
King Richard II; Hostess Nell Quickly; Queen of France; Lady Northumberland … Sheila Bandyopadhyay
King Henry VI; Katherine of France … Alexandra Bassett
Henry VI Consciousness … Matt Bretschneider
Young Henry Percy (Hotspur); Bardolf; Lewis the Dauphin … Shawn Cody
Henry VI Consciousness … Summer Ryan Doyle
Henry Percy (Northumberland); Pistol; King of France … Curt Klump
King Henry IV (Bolingbroke); Exeter; Sir John Falstaff … Erik Lochtefeld
Dolly Tearsheet; Lady Percy; Alice … Julie McNiven Henry VI Consciousness … Nicole Victoria Reinsel
Thomas Percy (Worcester); Nym; High Constable of France … Jason Michael Spellbring

Two summers ago BREATH OF KINGS, Shakespeare East’s collage of the Bard’s Histories, quietly slipped into Boston for a few weekends at the Actor’s Workshop; it later earned two Addisons including one for Noel Joseph Allain’s Prince Hal/Henry V, still the best onstage personification that I’ve seen of the role. Shakespeare East now returns not so quietly with its KINGS revision entitled HAL HARRY HENRY, this time at the Boston Center for the Arts; Mr. Allain once again assumes his royal mantle amidst various cast additions, departures and switcheroos --- the new collage now has a set, more elaborate street-costumes and an Equity actor in its midst; the production is bigger and more professional than BREATH OF KINGS but not necessarily better. A large portion of the original’s appeal lay in these budding Shakespeareans making much out of very little as if they were a troupe of strolling players stopping in from the road; what they lacked in production values they more than made up for in voice and imagination. HAL HARRY HENRY, on the other hand, has a labored, self-congratulatory feel to it: what was once a genuine lump of coal that warmed the heart has been overly polished into becoming a sham diamond worn gaudily --- had you attended BREATH OF KINGS, you might also share the same pang of disappointment that I am feeling, now; if not, you will find HAL HARRY HENRY entertaining enough with a still-fine performance from Mr. Allain and some clever or charming bits such as the French court spitting in unison like a row of llamas or the Henry-Katherine wooing scene which always works regardless of whomever declaims its lines. On the debit side, there is Erik Lochtefeld’s sinister, Fagin-like Falstaff and such touches as Prince Hal holding the deceased knight’s skull and quoting Hamlet’s Yorick-lines to it, some machine-gun fire in the St. Crispin Battle which may explain why only five-and-twenty Englishmen fell that day, and the narrating Henry VI concluding with Prospero’s “we are the stuff that dreams are made of”, which smacks of reaching for the obvious once true inspiration has run dry. BREATH OF KINGS triumphantly proved that Shakespeare East is a troupe to take on the real Bard, in time; HAL HARRY HENRY shows the company quite content, for now, at being its own vanity press. Fortunately for Shakespeare East, the Bard can wait.

"Hal Harry Henry" (27 - 31 July)
SHAKESPEARE EAST
Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 933-8600

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide

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