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Henry V
a Epic Play
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Atlanta Classical Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 14th Street Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 341

SHOWING : May 27, 2002 - June 12, 2002

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

1943. The boys are off to war. On the homefront, an all-female theatre troupe comes to town, presenting Shakespeare's epic tale.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Angela Tonn
Choreographer Jim Brown
Stage Manager Alice Flagg
Ensemble Jennifer Ayling
Ensemble Jennifer Dersin
Ensemble Rachel Garner
Ensemble Candice Holdorf
Ensemble Kimberly Jurgen
Ensemble Ana Moreira
Ensemble Dawn Robinson
Ensemble Kristin Seymour
Ensemble Kimberly A West
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

Some BRIEF thoughts
by Pink Lady
Thursday, June 6, 2002
4.0
I saw Henry V because I was intrigued by the concept. I was not disappointed. I enjoyed the show thoroughly, thought there were weak points and strong points in the show and in the cast, and I personally liked Ms. Jurgen's performance, overall. Yes, the scene changes were long. But whatever. The last ACT production I saw, "Zorro", was a rough experience. This was quite nice. I would (and have) recommend this play to friends, if they like Shakespeare. It's a well-done play. Kudos. I'd write more, but I don't have the same amount of time on my hands as some other people. Go see it. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Cheap Shot by Dedalus
Okay, sometimes my lunch hours get Waaaaayyyyy too boring. I just feel that if a group is going to all this time and expense to mount a production, the LEAST I can do is take the time to thoughtfully pontificate on my response to them.

;-)))

Brad, Pedant-at-Large
The Real Story on Henry V: Acting and Concepts
by JaniceRuthWeatherly
Thursday, June 6, 2002
4.0
When they boys are away, the women will play! And they play extremely well in this thought provoking version of Henry V.
Unlike the other reviewer of this show, I was totally sold on the "40's" concept. After glancing at a patriotic lobby display that contained many old advertisements asking women to "take an active role on the home-front," I took my seat to the tune big band music and old radio commercials. Suddenly, the giddy Victory Bells ran into the theater "because the train was late" carrying trunks, rushing to get ready for the show, and visiting with audience members. During intermission, I browsed through the World War II themed books in the lobby as more big band music poured from the theater. And, at the end of the show, the Victory Bells asked us to "Buy Bonds" and then began to pack-up for their next stop on the home-front tour. I thoroughly enjoyed this concept, and I think that having more appearances of the Victory Bells would have had a negative effect on the play. The Victory Bells are trained professionals after all (as one may see from their "bio's"), and abiding by older (typically less realistic) styles of acting usually just serves to annoy rather than please contemporary audiences. As this concept was executed, every line forced me to question the nature of war, patriotism, and gender roles. Hats off to director, Angela Tonn, for making me really think.
Performances in this production were generally outstanding. If acting is re-acting, then Jennifer Dersin should win the prize. As the Boy, the Constable, and a Conspirator, she consistently conveyed multiple layers of thoughts and emotions. Often, I was simply unable to remove my eyes from her stunning performance. Ana Moreira was both hilarious and touching as Captain Fluellen. Her broad brogue and large presence made this character delightful. Rachel Garner smoothly switched between the sweet Katherine, the evil conspirator, the angered French duke, the sarcastic herald, and the inviting Chorus in an impeccable display of range. Candace Holdorf achieved a similar feat, switching between the lovable, intellectually challenged, nonsense-talking Nym, the scheming conspirator, and the down-right evil, manipulative, and murderous Dauphin. The cast as a whole was generally very talented and worked well as an ensemble.
So, why only four stars?
I was rather dissatisfied by one performance. And, unfortunately, this was the performance given by Kimberly Jurgen in the role of Henry. Jurgen spent the play endlessly and meaninglessly dragging through her lines. On the rare occasions that she did seem to understand what she was saying, her physical and vocal character choices were either bland or just plain strange (literally WHISPERING "Once more into the breech!"). In short, I sat appalled and offended by the obvious lack of thought behind her character as she blankly stared into space during yet another "dramatic pause."
Overall, I did enjoy this performance of Henry V, and I recommend it highly. There are many artful momments in this show that simply should not be missed! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Some More Thoughts by Dedalus
You make some good points, and, I think, a lot of our disagreement about performances stems more from our own subjective responses than anything else. Some things that came to me after reading your review --

(1) If, following the 40's concept to its logical conclusion of using the acting style of the time would be distracting to a contemporary audience (and you're no doubt right about that), is that the right concept to use? Personally, keeping the 40's concept to hair styles, costume styles and make-up styles would have done the trick for me (if you've ever seen period movies made in the 40's, you can always place them there by their look).

(2) Maybe what hurt it for me was the set-up -- the lobby and pre-show music so set up the expectation that the follow-through just didn't meet it for me.

(3) I too enjoyed the many-levelled attitudes toward war. Unfortunately, again, they were wrong for the period -- the 40's were a time of gung-ho patriotism, and, an ambivalent attitude towards war (especially from a USO troupe) would not have been too well received. One need only see Olivier's film of Henry to see what I mean. On the other hand, the gender-role themes were right-on: it was, after all, the time of "Rosie the Riveter" and the first acceptance of women in traditional male roles.

-- Brad
What Might Have Been
by Dedalus
Tuesday, June 4, 2002
3.0
There is an excellent 5-step process that can be used if your aim is to frustrate an audience:

(1) Start with an excellent concept, but neglect to follow through on it.

(2) Cast an group of excellent actresses into multiple roles, but ensure that they each perform one of their roles badly.

(3) Design a modular, adaptable set, but spend far too much time arranging the pieces “just so.”

(4) Have the actress in the main role perform it well, except for the role’s two “set piece” highlights.

(5) At the end, remind the audience of the wonderful concept you started with, but neglected through most of the evening.

It is with regret that I must report that Atlanta Classical Theatre’s all-female “Henry V” seems to have followed these steps, with the expected results. I had such high hopes for this show, and, indeed, there is much about it that works well. Unfortunately, there are also too many missed opportunities, and too many cases of unfortunate choice-making.

I love the idea of a group of USO actresses touring the country in the middle of WWII, performing Shakespeare. The opening, with the actresses arriving at the theatre “late,” and introducing themselves in a cacophony of improvisation and preparation, was beautifully realized. Yes, one actress had an anachronistic tattoo showing on her ankle, but I had to have this pointed out to me, so it was forgivable. Unfortunately, these characters, so brilliantly established in so short a time, disappeared completely once the actual Play began. At no time throughout the performance did I have the sense that these were 40’s characters playing these roles. There was no attempt to re-create the Shakespearean styles popular in the 40’s and no attempt (apart from one or two distressed seams) to make the costumes look as if they came from the bottom of a touring trunk. Where were the stagehands needed to set the scenes? Where were the character wigs, essential for any repertory company of the time (a glaring omission when the “white-haired” Erpingham stands there with unblemished black hair).

It was as if the company liked the idea of an all-female “Henry V,” established a prologue to justify it, then performed it as if the prologue had never happened. The idea of an all-female Henry does work – this most testosterone-soaked work becomes highly ironic when performed by women, especially when one of the plot points is the validity of female inheritance. To be sure, some cross-gender moments were excellent, especially the final wooing scene between Henry and Katherine. It didn’t matter that we were seeing two women – we believed them as characters. If the goal was simply an all-female show, wouldn’t it have been more artistically honest to just do it, rather than to establish a conceptual justification, then pretend that the justification didn’t exist?

Generally speaking, the casting provided mixed results. I would have liked to have seen a few older actresses mixed in. The idea of Henry being young and manipulated by his older relatives and counselors was completely lost by having all the actresses of similar ages.

Specifically speaking, I was also frustrated by the mixed performances of the group. Candice Holdorf made a wonderfully dimensional Dauphin, but she missed the point entirely of the humors-obsessed Nym, playing him as a lisping coward (yes, Nym is a coward, but he is much a braggart as Pistol). Jennifer Dersin had some beautifully contrasting moments as the young boy and as the experienced Constable, but disappeared entirely in her traitor role (Grey). In fact, the entire traitors scene was drained of suspense and provided another missed opportunity. Rachel Garner was marvelous as the Chorus and the French-speaking Katherine, but her Mountjoy never went deeper than a surface sneer. And Ana Moreira chose a bad music-hall Scottish accent for her Welsh Fluellen, but was fine as Canterbury and Burgundy.

In the title role, A.C.T. artistic director Kimberly Jurgen hit most of the moments perfectly. Unfortunately, her two misses were Henry’s defining moments – the “Once More Unto the Breach” speech at Harfleur and the St. Crispian’s Day speech before the final Agincourt battle. These two speeches show Henry becoming the King he needs to be – they rouse his armies and show him to be a leader to be respected. Ms. Jurgen performed them as if she were lecturing a hall of bored students. She had a few moments of including the audience in her army – more of that would have been welcome. It may also have been a staging issue – these should have been moments with the entire cast on stage being roused from fear and inertia and being transformed into an army. The presentation and the reaction failed to do any of this. I would not have followed this king into a forest, let alone into a battle.

The set started out as a bare floor, but was soon filled with the actress’s travelling trunks and suitcases. These trunks were re-arranged to create the sets and suggest the scenes. While this is a very 2002 concept and not at all 1940’s, it still should have worked. Unfortunately, each scene had its own very specific arrangement, and great care (and TIME!) was spent making them “just so.” I have no doubt that some of the changes were to cover costume-changes, but a better solution (or execution) was sorely needed. Was it absolutely necessary to arrange 5 trunks into a circle for Katherine’s scene with her servant, when a single trunk (or even a bare stage) would have worked as well (if not better)?

And the fight scenes were also a mixed bag. They were carefully choreographed and rehearsed, and came across as choreographed and rehearsed. They had no spontaneity, no anger, no fear, no sense that this was a real battle we were witnessing. Granted, the closeness of the audience contributed a safety factor that necessitated care, but, again, I couldn’t help feeling there should have been a better solution. What did work was the Dauphin’s cold-hearted execution of the boy. But, this wasn’t a fight, it was a murder.

So, I apologize for the length of this. I went into this show with such high expectations, which seemed to have been met by the glorious opening sequence. Good concepts are a treasure, and A.C.T. is to be commended for it. Unfortunately, a mediocre performance of a fine concept results in a mediocre evening in the theatre. The shout of “Buy Bonds” at the end of the curtain call only served to remind me of what should have been.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
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