Two Minutes' Traffic: Richard II and Henry IV Part 1 at Brave Spirits Theatre

Every so often, the world gives you a treat, and in this case, it's doing so right now in Virginia at Brave Spirits' Theatre. Their laudable aim over the next two years is to mount full productions of all of Shakespeare's eight history plays* and to perform them in repertory, and the good news is that they are well on their way.

Thus far, I've been lucky enough to see Richard II and Henry IV Part One, and the glorious dividends of playing connected stories in rep are already apparent. It's one thing for a newly crowned Bolingbroke (apologies, that's King Henry IV) to throw out a complaint about his unthrifty son, but when you know you'll be introduced to that son in just a few hours?


And when you're able to track the robust friendship of Bolingbroke and Northumberland from Richard II and watch it crumble over not one, but two parts of Henry IV? Especially when comparatively few people ever get around to staging part two?


In some ways, director Charlene Smith is laying the groundwork for an accomplishment that will only be complete next spring, when all 8 plays are running in rep and audiences can take their pick or feast on the entire epic, but even so, we're already reaping the rewards. Under her direction, characters are clicking into place and actors are clearly relishing the chances to follow their roles down Shakespeare's twisting paths. I'm very excited--and you should be, too.

*The two tetralogies that span the kings from Richard II-Richard III, at least--no King Johns or Henry VIIIs here.


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