Monday, February 14, 2011

Look About You by Anonymous and Henry VI Part III Rehearsals

John Harrell in Look About You. Photo by Tommy Thompson
We attended the second PWYW performance of "Look About You." I had recently read a very old, edited and annotated text of the play, and while confusing, I rather enjoyed it. Part history, part legendary Robin Hood tale, it has the potential to be the kind of play I would like. Unfortunately though, it really tries to be too many things, has too many plot lines, and generally feels disjointed. I think upon seeing it later in the season I will enjoy it and appreciate it more. While the production is a bit weird, it goes without saying that there were several outstanding individual performances. To me, Chris Johnston stole the show as the stammering, stuttering, always on the go Redcap. John Harrell as Skink and Benjamin Curns as Gloucester seemingly don about 20 different costumes each as they imitate nearly every major character in the play. Their mockings of Redcap are especially funny. Greg Phelps and Patrick Midgley bring the house down in their "romantic encounter" when Midgley's Robin Hood is dressed as Marian Fauconbridge and encounters Phelps' Richard the Lionheart. Speaking of Fauconbridge, Tyler Moss is terrific as the lecherous, old, crab-like Richard Fauconbridge. The "true" Marian is played superbly by Miriam Donald. Jeremy West is very convincing as the jerky but redeemed younger King Henry and Paul Jannise turns in a great performance as the ineffectual King Henry II. Jeremiah Davis is outstanding as the turdish Prince John and Allison Glenzer is typically excellent as the ambitious Eleanor of Aquitaine. I look forward to seeing it again when it has a bit more seasoning.

I was invited to the ASC offices to view some videos of past performances in the ASC archives and to attend rehearsals of Henry VI, Part 3. I viewed a 1993 production of Antony & Cleopatra directed by ASC co-founder and Director of Mission Dr. Ralph Alan Cohen. I'm not sure where it was filmed or who any of the actors were other than Margo McGirr, but it was a very entertaining production. The second video I watched was Paul Menzer's "The Brats of Clarence." Honestly, the production was one of the funniest, if not the funniest thing I've ever seen on stage at the Blackfriars. I would love to have a copy of it for home viewing. There was an interval fight scene between Jeremy West and Benjamin Curns that is absolutely classic for anyone who ever liked professional wrestling. John Harrell is amazing as King Henry VII and James IV of Scotland. Rene Thornton, Jr. is equally as funny as Henry's droll Lord Chamberlain. Other standouts are James Keegan as Old Towel/John Taylor who has an affinity for barley enemas, Greg Phelps as the hapless Perkin Warbeck, and Curns, Thornton, Christopher Seiler, and Susan Heyward as a band of Scottish guards complete with the brogue. After reading John Ford's "Perkin Warbeck," I've become somewhat fascinated with the tale (I'd love to see it played at the Blackfriars!), so, while this is a total farce, it still held a special interest for me.

After leaving the offices, I headed over to the Blackfriars with Kim, an M. Litt. student at Mary Baldwin to see 3H6 rehearsals. The first play I saw at the ASC was Henry VI, Part I, so the Wars of the Roses tetralogy is very special to me. I have also studied it extensively, and feel I can actually know what I'm talking about when I discuss it (unlike most plays). I had never attended rehearsals before and I found them to be fascinating as you see how the scenes evolve. Most of the scenes had a great deal of fight choreography and I was extremely impressed with Jeremy West's expertise and suggestions for scenes in general and fights in particular. I chatted with Benjamin Curns a bit before rehearsals started, mostly discussing the fight scene from Brats. [You shut your mouth, Curns!] The first scene rehearsed was Act 1, scene 2 with John Harrell as Edward Plantagenet, Earl of March & future King Edward IV; Curns as Richard Plantagenet future Duke of Gloucester & Richard III; West as Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, Patrick Midgley as George Plantagenet future Duke of Clarence, and Daniel Burrows as Lord Montague, Earl of Salisbury and father to Warwick. This scene was rehearsed for 30 minutes. The next scene was Act 1, scene 3, the Rutland death scene, with Chris Johnston as Lord Clifford, Jeremiah Davis as Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Rutland, and Allison Glenzer as Rutland's religious tutor. This will be an excellent scene. I chatted a bit with Johnston and Sarah Fallon before the scene. Apart from Curns, they are playing the most delicious scenes in this play and I fully expect them to turn in stand out performances. The next scene was Act 1, scene 4, the York death scene, and rehearsals for it ran for 45 minutes. Characters are Fallon as Queen Margaret, West as York, Johnston as Clifford, and Paul Jannise as a combined Earl of Northumberland and Oxford [not sure why that decision was made]. This is a brutal, bloody scene and will shock crowds. The death of York is phenomenal and will be long-remembered for ASC fans. Watch for a Sarah Fallon inspired Curb-Stomp from Clifford. The final scene I saw was Act 2, scene 2, with Greg Phelps as King Henry VI entering York. He is accompanied by Margaret, Clifford, Oxumberland, and Miriam Donald as Edward Plantagenet, Prince of Wales. Following this scene, the band played music for about an hour [the two songs were "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath and "It's Good to be King" by Tom Petty]. I had hoped to stick around to see Shannon Schultz's [who was acting as stage manager during rehearsals] all-male thesis project version of Romeo and Juliet but I was pretty well exhausted and had to get up early for work the next day. I hate I missed it, but I wanted to give Shannon a shout-out. She's always very helpful and conversant when I see her at the ASC, and is a fellow history play lover.

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