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Anne of the Thousand Days

a Drama
by Maxwell Anderson

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 5510

SHOWING : May 11, 2019 - May 26, 2019



Intimate details come to light as Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII separately relive the memories of the one thousand days of their tempestuous relationship. Watch as their tragic love story slowly unfolds and abruptly comes to an end. Full of adultery, power and deception, "Anne of The Thousand Days" explores the loss of innocence in so many ways.

Director Jeff Watkins
Wolsey Tony Brown
Anne Boleyn Kirsten Calvert
Smeaton Joshua Goodridge
Norfolk Doug Kaye
Lord Percy Sean Kelley
Norris/Bishop Fisher Adam Daniel King
Elizabeth Boleyn Rivka Levin
Thomas Boleyn/John Houghton Matt Nitchie
Cromwell Charlie T. Thomas
Thomas More Jeff Watkins
Henry VIII Troy Willis
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Anne of the 10,000 Seconds
by playgoer
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Maxwell Anderson’s "Anne of the Thousand Days" provides a non-Shakespearean perspective on the courtship and marriage of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII. Being performed on the Shakespeare Tavern’s stage and using its stable of Anné Carole Butler’s costumes gives the production a pseudo-Shakespearean look, but Greg Hanthorn Jr.’s lighting design gives it a more modern feel, with some dappled effects and tight illumination of isolated locations. Sound, though, approximates what would have been available in Elizabethan times, with music and babble offstage augmented by onstage music (composed by Bo Gaiason and J. Tony Brown; music directed by Rivka Levin; accompanied variously by Ms. Levin, Adam King, and Sean Kelley; and beautifully sung by a young chorus consisting of Avery Michael, Charlotte Evans, and Elizabeth Romig).

What really separates this work from Shakespeare, of course, is the language. While Maxwell Anderson wrote the play in blank verse, it comes across as prose. The vocabulary is fully understandable to a modern audience, which is perhaps why director Jeff Watkins has chosen counterintuitively to slow down the pace of speech from what is normal in a modern production of an Elizabethan work. Flying through passages of unfamiliar Elizabethan terminology lets meaning come through without unduly antagonizing the audience; without the need to worry about an audience’s grasp of individual words, nothing needs to be rushed over. And that’s the biggest problem in the production -- some passages drag, with King Henry’s speeches right after intermission and at the end of the show becoming soporifically tedious.

Production values are good, although Anne’s "new" dress meant to impress the king looks much like a satin-edged, quilted bedspread turned into a gown. It photographs well in the publicity shot on the cover of the program; it looks a bit like fabric armor onstage. The regal garb for Henry and Anne following her coronation is splendid, though, and the simple white gown she wears at the start and end of the play is also quite effective. Props are simple, but appropriate.

Performances are heartfelt and thoroughly professional. True, Troy Willis as King Henry VIII sometimes lets his volume drop, and Doug Kaye as Norfolk can sometimes sound mush-mouthed, but everyone else projects beautifully. Matt Nitchie gives a very nice, subdued performance as Anne’s father, and Charlie Thomas has an assured, slightly ominous manner as Cromwell that is quite effective. J. Tony Brown creates another indelible performance as Cardinal Wolsey that is sly and quietly powerful. Mr. Willis is pompous and pampered as King Henry VIII, and Kirstin Calvert is sturdily independent as Anne Boleyn. They carry the show, but are ably supported by everyone else in the cast.

"Anne of the Thousand Days" is a worthy contribution to the Shakespeare Tavern’s "Tudor Rep," in which it will run in repertory with Shakespeare’s propagandistic history play of Henry VIII and Robert Bolt’s "A Man for All Seasons." But why not lighten things up with the Richard Rodgers/Sheldon Harnick flop musical "Rex?" Serious dramas of over 2.5 hours aren’t the only perspective on the reign of King Henry VIII! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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