Monday, July 17, 2017

Henry IV, Part Two—Ashland Shakespeare Festival—Ashland, OR

“What Price Glory?”

This is part of the history canon of the Bard’s plays, directed by Carl Cofield.  It is playing at the Thomas Theatre in repertory through October 28th.  For more information, go their site at or call 1-800-219-8161.

The above title could easily reflect on the price of fame, in today’s market, as well, when one is catapulted into another frame of reference, another perspective, asking what sacrifices must be made in order to inhabit this world?  If left to our own devices, what existence would we choose and if, in a position of Power, what mantles must be shed in order to cope, to maintain, that “brave, new world?”  In Hal/Harry/Henry’s worlds, civic duty must take precedence over individual pleasure.  But we are such fragile creatures, do we not lose part of our humanity, our soul, in that transformation?  “Must give us pause.”

All the familiar pawns are here as in Part One but evolution/revolution is spreading. It seems that King Henry (Jeffery King) may be in charge of his own clan, the English, Warwick (Tyrone Wilson), Westmorland (Robert Vincent Frank), Prince John (Jeremy Gallardo), and Clarence (Alejandra Escalante).  But the Scot’s and Welsh families have their own ideas of who should be in charge.  Even Henry’s son, Hal (Daniel José Molina) is, in actuality, the Prince of Wales. But since all those clans are inter-related by marriage and birth, in some way, it makes for some sticky situations.

His opposers, including Hastings (Michael Gabriel Goodfriend), Mowbray (Lauren Modica), Bardolph (Richard Elmore), and Northumberland are equally adamant as to their cause.  Then we have the Boar’s Head Tavern crowd of misfits, miscreants and motley, mischief-makers.  Mistress Quickly (Michele Mais), being the major domo there and her fellow imbibers (including Hal), are Sir John Falstaff (Ted Lange, the understudy) holding his own court, with the likes of Poins (Goodfriend, again), Bardolph (Frank, again), Peto (Modica, again), Doll Tearsheet (Escalante, again) and a Page (Yi Shostrom).  The scenes with these scene-stealers comprise the humor in the show.

The warring factions of both comedy and tragedy are too complicated to get into in any detail but know that this is the middle play/act and, like all trilogies, is not quite as interesting, like the Lord of the Rings or Star Wars series, but there are some gems within this.  My favorite and the show-stopper, as far as I’m concerned, is when Falstaff attempts to hire recruits for his army.  By their names alone you can deduce how desperate he is in garnering troops.  Shallow (Elmore, again) and Silence (Modica, again), country justices, along with Falstaff find the lowest of the low, including the repulsive, Mouldy (Kimberly Scott), the dumb ox, Bullcalf (King, again), the disgusting, Wart (Gallardo, again), the elusive, Shadow (Nemuna Ceesay) and the dimwit, Feeble (Robin Goodrin Nordli).  Comedy at its best!  

All these varying elements will eventually clash, some will die or be captured, and some to survive for the next installment in Henry V (next season).  Perhaps the saddest, cruelest and oddest of happenings is the breaking down of the relationship between Falstaff and Hal.  Can’t tell you more without revealing character devices.  As always, they are all super in playing multiple roles but Elmore, a very seasoned professional, as Shallow, truly shines!  And a positive boost to Lange, as he had to, at the last minute, fill in for one of the lead characters, Falstaff.  He may have had book in hand but he never wavered in his confidence when playing the character and this speaks volumes about the talent this actor possesses!  He got a well-deserved, rousing hand at curtain call, a tribute to his tenacity.

It is amazing the creative use of a small, essentially bare stage can belie in the hands of a clever craftsman, the director, Cofield.  Not only does he manage to keep things moving but also embraces the hundreds of small factions of characters and places into an understandable pattern.  A monumental task, extremely well done.

I recommend this play.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

The Ashland Experience:  Ashland Hills/Springs

If you are looking for a comfortable place to stay while visiting the Bard’s stories, I highly recommend the Ashland Springs rooms, (downtown Ashland, just feet away from OSF) with their secured parking lot.  There is also their Ashland Hills suites, about 3 miles South of the downtown area, which also has a pool and hot tub.  Both these establishments offer a complimentary breakfast buffet, including bagels, muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, waffles, sausage patties, hot & cold cereals, coffee and juices, et. al.  It certainly will enhance your experience in this great little town.  For more information, go to their site at or call 855-482-8310.  And, as always, if you do choose to stay at one of their fine places, tell them Dennis sent you.

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