Judith Shakespeare Company New York, NY
Judith Shakespeare Company under the capable hands of Joanne Zipay has mounted the next in the series of “Shakespeare Unplugged”.
In the current play, Henry V, has assumed a more mature persona by abandoning his drinking buddies and listening to the erroneousness advice that justifies going to war against France. Strategically, the English are poorly equipped to battle the French who outnumber them on their own soil and in the worst weather. But due to some great engineering and the ability of Henry to rally the support of an army that loves him, they succeed. His prize is France’s daughter, Katherine.
It is not worth mentioning that Ms. Zipay’s projects are heavy in reverse casting. They work so well it is immaterial.
Reprising the role of Henry is Laurie Bannister-Colón who is mostly adept with the text (calling the Dauphin the Dolphin) without finding the different colors of the character. The humility, passion and logic is missing behind the “Once more into the breach” and the “St. Crispin” speeches.
Also returning is the deliciously versatile and riveting Jane Titus playing the wildly different Archbishop of Canterbury, MacMorris, Monsieur La Fer and Katherine’s English tutor, Alice. Also returning are the skillful Kevin Scott Till as Pistol, Gail Kay Bell (Queen Isabel, Williams, Grey), David Huber (Dauphin, Bardolph, Warwick), and Miriam Lipner (Boy, Gloucester).
A great find from the Richmond Shakespeare Festival, Grant Mudge (Nym, Bourgon, Court) as Katherine, with the help of Jane Titus, elicits the wonderful humor in the English lesson. Eileen Glenn (Bishop of Ely, Jamy) is delightful as the Constable of France. Richard Simon (Grandpre) makes a wonderful Fluellen.
Also in the cast to be commended are Eric Aschenbrenner (Montjoy, Scroop), Joseph Capone (King of France, Erpingham), Jovina Chan (Orleans, Bedford) Omri Schein (Gower, Rambures), Irma St. Paule (Chorus, Westmoreland, Brittany), Jennifer Sherron Stock (Exeter, Mistress Quickly, Beaumont), and Hilary Ward (Burgundy, Cambridge, Bates, Salisbury).
Adding but never intruding are lights by Robyn Henry and music and sound by PJ Merola.
Co-Directed by Ms. Zipay and her trusty sidekick, Ivanna Cullinan, Henry V is not as interesting as Henry IV. It is too much politics and war. The amusing English lesson in Henry V cannot hold its own against the bawdy encounter of Vince Gatton as Doll Tearsheet and Seriden Thomas Falstaff from Henry IV.
But, once again, I encourage Ms. Zipay to continue with the “unplugged” series. She has a passion and mastery of the text which is awe inspiring. It is no wonder she is able to people her productions with quick shooters like Glenn, Chan, Mudge, and Till and the maturity of Capone, St. Paule, Stock, and Titus. Ms. Zipay, I am ready for the next!
Reviewer: Catherine Lamm