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Review – ‘Henry IV, Part 1’ at The Curtain Theatre By Alexa Chipman

The history plays of William Shakespeare vary from intricately political to genuinely fascinating stories in their own right. ‘Henry IV, Part 1’ is delicately balanced between raunchy entertainment and epic battles for the throne. The Curtain Theatre wisely introduces the three groups of protagonists before the action begins: royals, rebels, and pub crawlers, adding a high-spirited song to reiterate the political situation while enthusiastically capering. As a result, it is easy to follow the machinations for the crown, and gives the production a spirited atmosphere.

Prince Hal is portrayed by the exceptional Nick Moore, who captures the young man’s carefree lifestyle of carousing and practical jokes as a mask to his noble nature that is stripped away when the rebels threaten his family. In the callow youth’s place stands a forceful warrior ready to assume his role as the future King Henry V. His father has been replaced by Heather Cherry as King Henry IV, with subtle alterations to the text reflecting the change in gender. She is magnificent in the role, with commanding presence and fierce dedication in battle. It is no wonder that Vernon (James Gregory) is enamored with Prince Hal and the royals, despite his loyalty to the opposing side. His constant praise leads to chuckles from the audience and steaming glares from Henry Percy (Lijesh Krishnan).

Leader of the rebellion, passionate Henry Percy “Hotspur” strides restlessly across the stage, cape swirling, ranting against his enemies, and casting witty, sarcastic remarks at his longsuffering friends. His wife, Kate (Isabelle Grimm), is confident enough to push through his personality to get what she wants. Director Steve Beecroft gives each family their own dynamic and manner of interacting, crafting a sensational staging that will leave you wishing the play was longer.

Stumbling while clutching at tankards of sack, a drink known today as sherry, Grey Wolf’s Sir John Falstaff is a reminder why Elizabethan crowds were so fond of the character. He bumbles through taverns with raunchy exchanges of insults and occasional wisdom, a kindly soul prone to grossly exaggerated tales. Michael Walraven’s Bardolph and Nelson Brown’s Poins lounge about The Boar’s-Head Tavern, getting into trouble, until Prince Hal convinces them to seek an honorable path.

Don Clark’s high-spirited band turns martial for the battle, with drumming and trumpets urging on combatants slashing at each other through the forest, swords flashing in the afternoon sun. Richly colored pennants of lions and the Welsh dragon flutter on an artistic set design by Steve Coleman that blends in with the living backdrop of a redwood grove.

Old Mill Park spreads across the hillsides below the Mill Valley library, which is the simplest way to enter the theater. Walk down toward the creek and you will see a cluster of white outdoor chairs. There are no reservations; arrive early to choose a seat, or bring blankets and your own chairs to use the slope overlooking the stage.

The Curtain Theatre’s outstanding ‘Henry IV, Part 1’ is an exuberant adventure with noble knights and raunchy mischief-making, highlighting Shakespeare’s exquisite use of language and imaginative interpretation of history.

Henry IV, Part 1

Presented by The Curtain Theatre through September 9, 2018 Sat/Sun at 2:00pm, Labor Day September 3 at 2:00pm Free Outdoor Theater

The Curtain Theatre Old Mill Park Amphitheatre 352 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley, 94941

(510) 655-0810

Photos by Russell Johnson

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