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Anne of The Thousand Days

a Drama
CATEGORY : DRAMA
by Maxwell Anderson

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 3843

SHOWING : September 30, 2010 - October 23, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Directed by Jeff Watkins
Rights Provided by the Robert A. Freedman Dramatic Agency, Inc.
Performances September 30 & October 3, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 17, 21, 23

Intimate details come to light as Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII separately relive the memories of the 1000 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.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Jeff Watkins
Lighting Designer Greg Hanthorn, Jr.
Madge Shelton Rivka Levin
Wolsey Tony Brown
Elizabeth Boleyn Erin Considine
Norris Nicholas Faircloth
Mary Boleyn Rachel Frawley
Jane Seymore Dani Herd
Servant Jonathan Horne
Cromwell Andrew Houchins
Norfolk Doug Kaye
Percy/Thomas More Matt Nitchie
Smeaton/Bishop Fisher Daniel Parvis
Thomas Boleyn/John Houghton Maurice Ralston
Anne Boleyn Mary Russell
Henry VIII Troy Willis
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Public Persona / Private Person
by Dedalus
Thursday, October 28, 2010
4.0
In a complete reversal of its public-face production of Shakespeare’s “Henry VIII,” the Shakespeare Tavern pulls aside the Public Persona of King Henry and Lady Anne to show us the Private Life the two shared. Maxwell Anderson’s 1948 play, “Anne of a Thousand Days,” opens with Anne in prison, counting the days with her king as she counts the minutes left in her life. Meanwhile, King Henry struggles over signing the paper that will end his second wife’s life. We are soon flashing back to the times shared by these two distinct, passionate people as we see re-enacted the losses and angers and pains behind the very public rise and fall of their marriage.

The irony of this story is that, of all the 1,000 days of Henry’s pursuit of, marriage to, and casting off of Anne, there was only one real day in which they were in love with each other. Henry pursues Anne relentlessly, to the point of exiling her fiancé. Anne finds him repulsive and refuses his advances. Slowly, his tenacity wears her down. She finally falls in love with him and marries him. As soon as this happens, Henry’s attentions turn elsewhere (to Jane Seymour). After the birth of Anne’s daughter Elizabeth, Henry actively plots her removal. The final scenes, complete with tortured false confessions and resigned arguments leads to the inevitable date with the headsman. “So much for Anne,” to quote a whistling-past-the-cemetery Henry.

I found this a much more compelling, much more involving play than its Shakespearean companion piece. In “Henry VIII,” we get the bare bones of the story, filtered through a pro-Tudor propaganda lens. We get some of the events and see Anne being decorative and fulfilling her historical role. In the Anderson play, however, she becomes a more active, more interesting character. We watch as her affections go from horrified astonishment, to regretful acceptance, and finally to real love. Our sympathies are then crushed as Henry grows colder, more calculating, more distance. And we feel total sympathy for Anne as her friends and servants are tortured and brow-beaten into saying the words that will condemn her, innocent of a crew for which her husband is many times over guilty. She is, in effect, reaping the punishment for Henry’s sins.

One of the keys to the success of this play is the central performances by Marry Russell (Anne) and Troy Willis (Henry). More so than in “Henry VIII,” they create fully-dimensional characters who find themselves constantly at odds even when their passion for each other is at its highest. If Ms. Russell tends to get to the same high emotional point a few times too often, she fully compensates in her quieter moments, showing us a remarkable woman able to stand her ground with the most powerful man in England, able to weigh the contrasting lures of love and power and to navigate a perilous path between them. And, Mr. Willis shows us far more than the traditional randy monarch, giving us a character surprised at his own feelings for this woman who is not afraid of him or his power.

Staged on the Tavern’s traditional globe set, the piece flows remarkable well from scene to scene, using its Shakespearean appearance to strengthen the links with “Henry VIII.” And the irony of those connections is never lost. Just compare the meek Anne of “Henry” and the fiery individual of “Anne.” Compare the exultant over-the-top celebration of Elizabeth’s birth in “Henry” with the child’s cold dismissal in “Anne.” Compare the grandiose and love-of-the-people coronation scene in “Henry” with the cruel catcalls of “Anne.” This play, more than any other, really brings to the fore the propagandistic elements Shakespeare used, and probably lessens its impact as a result.

I would highly recommend seeing both plays, as together they tell a complete story. But, if you have to see only one, “Anne of a Thousand Days” tells a more compelling story, strikes with a hotter emotional intensity, and reduces the bigger-than-life pomposity of Shakespeare’s more grandiose characters.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
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Transfixed!
by Lady Mac
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
5.0
Even if you have heard of “Anne of the Thousand Days” by Maxwell Anderson, you almost certainly never have seen it performed on stage.

Change that. As soon as possible.

This play is beautifully and intelligently written and, in the hands of the Shakespeare Tavern, exquisitely cast and performed. There is nearly nothing to criticize about the production. It’s the perfect counterpoint to the Tavern’s concurrent “Henry VIII” by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher. This one presents a less propagandistic version of the story – in such a raw, almost intrusive, examination of the main characters’ motives, emotions and weaknesses that it often seems that you are watching Anne’s and Henry’s personal diaries come to life before your eyes.

While the king in “Henry VIII” is sanitized, one-dimensional and uninteresting, in this play he is thoroughly dissected and presented as neither hero nor villain but as a deeply flawed, multifaceted, frustrated, selfish, obsessed, smooth, complex … well, human being. Troy Willis, who plays Henry in both shows, is able to break free in this one and demonstrate his impressive skill at portraying the gamut of human experience. Let’s face it: Henry VIII had his wife beheaded over trumped-up adultery charges – not exactly anyone’s definition of Prince Charming. And yet the author and Willis absolutely defy you not to at least understand him a little at times and even be completely won over on occasion.

In fact, the performances of Willis and Mary Russell as Anne Boleyn are so outstanding that they create a tug-of-war over the audience. Just as you are beginning to feel that Henry is not so terrible – just as Willis has charmed you into believing Henry’s sincerity – Russell pulls you back with an emotionally charged scene or speech or single line. The audience members are volleyed back and forth throughout the play – and cannot take their eyes off the cerebral combat on the stage.

Though this play is all emotion and philosophy and intellect – not much action, no swords – it is completely mesmerizing. You could have heard a pin drop at the theater the night I saw this performed; the audience as a whole hung on every word. My review of “Henry VIII” warned of the possibility that your mind may wander a bit; that is highly unlikely to happen during “Anne of the Thousand Days.”

The rest of the cast – beyond Willis and Russell – is airtight. There is not a weak link in this production, and even the most minor characters have nuance and depth. For example, in her 20 words (or so it seemed) of lines, Elizabeth Boleyn (Anne’s mother, played with sad resignation by Erin Considine) reveals a lot more than you would expect and gives some insight into her past and circumstances that lend context and richness to the situation with her daughter(s). As Anne’s father, Maurice Ralston carefully walks the fine line between protective father and self-preserving, pragmatic subject. Matt Nitchie is simple, genuine and heartbreaking as Anne’s first/true love, Lord Percy. Tony Brown’s Wolsey is far less black-and-white than the “Henry VIII” version. And Daniel Parvis as the wrongly accused “adulterer” Smeaton the musician is absolutely devastating; his performance epitomizes the injustice not only for Anne but also for all who are collateral damage in her undoing.

No doubt the play’s unfamiliarity contributed to the relatively small audience on the night I saw this play, which may continue to be the case – but shouldn’t be. This is a powerful, memorable play that deserves to be appreciated by far more people.

Ideally, you’ll be able to see both of the Tavern’s current, rarely staged productions about the English monarch. If you can see only one, though, make this the one. (Sorry, Shakespeare!)
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