Henry IV part 2 at the Shakespeare Theatre Company

First off, let me apologize for being so late in getting this up.

I'll admit I think of these two plays, I think part 2 is better.  I found myself much more engaged with the characters, and a lot of that had to do with how much more energy there was when the play started compared with the first part.  There's a lot of exposition at the beginning of part 1, whereas with part 2, you get to go straight into the action and assume that people either have seen the first part or at the very least know what happens.  The actors seemed to be having more fun with this script as well, which made it really fun to watch.  That's not to say part 1 wasn't fun - I just caught more of an air of excitement this time around.  I was also able to understand everyone a lot better - a few of the actors were a little quiet and weren't enunciating quite enough in the first play.  The story was very clear and I was able to keep up with the plot, but I missed some of the nicer turns of phrase throughout.

On Falstaff, I must agree with Emily's assessment.  Somewhere along the line, costumers decided Falstaff was going to be a bit of a Santa Claus character, with the big belly and the white beard.  I think it does a disservice to whomever is playing the part of Jack, because they have more to contend with in that sort of costume.  He's such a funny yet ultimately tragic character, and you get some beautiful bits of wisdom through the plays he's in, but I find him harder to take seriously when he keeps reminding me of the man that brings presents down the chimney on Christmas morning.  Stacy Keach is such a fine actor, I wish they'd just let him play the part and be less of a caricature of what people think Falstaff should look like.  I understand that Hal has a number of fat jokes that are very funny, but they would land just as well if Sweet Jack wasn't wearing a fat suit.  Give the audience some credit.  There's still imagination out there in the dark.

While I think all of the directorial decisions were on the mark, I had a lot more trouble with some other elements of the production.  The wigs are an actual mess.  I was shocked when I saw them - this is a theatre with a huge budget!  You'd think the wigs would be a little less terrible.  The costuming was a little too stylized for my taste, though it worked in a couple of places, particularly with Hotspur's wife.  Her mourning gown was gorgeous.  Much of the rest of the cast is decked out in fur and bits of cloth and oddly-fitting armor, and I think I will always love Hal's hipster scarf that he wears to Eastcheap.  He does get quite the upgrade at his coronation, but I won't spoil the surprise for anyone.

I really recommend going to see these plays.  Henry V was the first play of Shakespeare's I ever had a part in, and the whole Henriad is very dear to my heart (I also enjoy saying Henriad, but that's secondary).  It would be great if these were done more often, but they require large, talented casts, and I think overall, these productions at the Shakespeare Theatre are very much worth seeing.  Ed Gero is excellent as the elder Henry, bringing that gravitas that you need from a king that expects so much from his sons.  Ted van Griethuysen and Bev Appleton are brilliant as Justices Shallow and Silence, respectively.  Their scenes with Falstaff in the country are a bright spot of humor in the grimness that can permeate into this play.

Henry IV part 2
by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare Theatre Company


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