Periscope Depth

give the devil his due

Henry IV, Part 1: A bold production, full of emotion, volume, color and action by the Actors’ Shakespeare Project. This isn’t always to the show’s benefit, mind you. A lot of the actors commit the sin of starting a scene at ’8′ and building to ’10′, instead of starting at ’2′ and building there. The result is a buffet of volume that fails to engage, rather than a slow coaxing in. But the volume serves well in the boisterous tavern scenes, the passionate confrontations and of course the battle that caps off the play.

Robert Walsh, despite some issues with enunciation and an obvious fat suit, was an engaging Falstaff. He had the best comic timing of any member of the cast, and delivered his soliloquy on honor with remarkable strength. Allyn Burrows, despite being old enough to be a brother to the actor playing his father, was an excellent Hotspur: full of rage and impulse, but also capable of some genuine tender moments with his wife Kate. Joel Colodner was a better Henry than the Henry I saw in London. But it took me a while to warm to Bill Barclay as the young Prince Hal. As the gadfly prince in the first few acts, he’s too insolent and distant from the madcap comedy. He sneers rather than laughs. He does much better as the haughty prince spurred by his father to war and glory.

Some excellent choices in lighting and staging (despite one technical hiccup at the Act 3 Scene 2 midpoint). A set of lights beneath the stage, whose beams crept through the slats, were used sparingly and to good effect in the gloomier scenes. A balcony above the proscenium gave kings an opportunity to parlay with besiegers, or pilgrims to march on the high road while thieves plotted on the low road. There was a choral poem, composed by some uncredited member of the crew, that added nothing to the production. Other than that I have no complaints. It’s an excellent retelling of one of Shakespeare’s better histories; I recommend it.