Monday, March 15, 2010

Henry VI, Part II

The first play I saw at the American Shakespeare Center was Henry VI, Part I. I have been hooked on ASC performances ever since. The Henry VI plays thus hold a special place for me. I am a big fan of history plays, and the ASC version of 2H6 was excellent. Taking over the role of Henry VI this season is Denice Burbach. The very young Henry VI of part 1, played admirably by Alyssa Wilmoth, gives way to a maturing, though uncertain and reluctant monarch. Burbach plays this role so well. She really grabs the essence of Henry, that he doesn't want to be King, is pretty much unwilling to fight to keep his crown, and that he would be far more satisfied to be a common man or a man of religion. I have really enjoyed Burbach's performances during the Summer/Fall season and particularly during this Actors' Renaissance Season. It is good to see her getting a "starring role."

I won't bore you with the details of the play, nor do I want to discourage anyone from seeing it. I will say that this play is full of intrigue, conniving, violence, etc. Basically a great Shakespearean history. I will also clue you in on an opening that can't be missed: The play began with a super clever opening sequence with a Rose Wars scroll (Think Star Wars, complete with music).

Rene Thornton, Jr. reprising his role as Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, is fantastic. John Harrell is excellent as the conniving Bishop of Winchester, and his pre-show routine is not to be missed. Sarah Fallon turns in another great and powerful performance as the young but strong Queen Margaret d'Anjou. Daniel Kennedy is terrific as the demented and delusional Jack Cade, and Ben Curns gives us a glimpse at one of Shakespeare's most diabolical characters, young Richard Plantagenet (later Richard III). Curns' killing of Bob Jones' Duke of Somerset is an impressive physical performance. Gregory John Phelps also turns in an impressive performance as Suffolk, Margaret's good (ahem) friend.

There is still time to catch the last few performances of Henry VI, Pt. II at the ASC. I highly recommend doing so, you will be glad you did.
Allison Glenzer as Duchess Eleanor of Gloucester in Henry VI, Part Two. Photo by Tommy Thompson.

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