I wish I were more of a Shakespeare expert, so that I could have a basis for what I thought about the production of Henry IV, Part 1 at the Folger Theatre. But I’m not, so there is little I can do about it.
For those of you who, like me, have a hard time remembering Shakespeare’s history plots, here is the quickie version: Henry IV is king of England, having deposed and killed Richard II (that’s in another play). His son is the future Henry V, but the current Prince Hal, who is a ne’er do well, who spends all his time carousing at the tavern (and in the woods) with his drunkard friend Sir John Falstaff and a bevy of other funloving Englishmen (and Englishwomen).
Henry IV has a lot of enemies, noblemen from England, Scotland and Wales. Henry is jealous because they all seem to have warrior-sons, not playboy sons. And they decide to gang up on Henry (expressing old and new grievances) and get rid of him.
What will Prince Hal do? Will he stay only in the comedic scenes of the play, or will he transfer to the dramatic scenes, or will he be able to multi-task? (No plot spoiler here, unfortunately; you’ll have to see the show or read the play)
OK, so how was the play? Not bad, but not perfect, either. First, the sets, the costumes, the lighting….all first rate. The acting was mixed (never bad, never great). Rick Foucheux played King Henry. He is one of the city’s top actors. I’m not sure what his Shakespearean background is. He enunciated well, and looked the part, and I don’t want to be overly critical. But he seemed like a nice guy (as he usually seems) and I would think that Henry himself would have been a little rougher around the edges, a little less rational in his mannerisms. Similarly, Tom Story as Prince Hal seemed more comfortable in his role as a carouser than in the later part of the play when he was out to defend his father. (oh, well, maybe this is a plot spoiler, and maybe there is something genetic in the Henry/Henry DNA that made them nice guys)
Falstaff is third lead character. I didn’t think that Delaney Williams quite captured the role, although it would not surprise me if better critics than I would disagree with this. I didn’t think he looked the part. Yes, he looked fat, which is crucial to the script, but he looked a little too young, and his emotional highs were not high enough for me, and his lows not low enough.
OK, but back to the beginning. I am not equipped to criticize. I have not see enough of the histories to be able to compare. This was clearly a good performance. You could follow it, and you wanted to, even though it ran about 3 hours. I guess I’d give it a B. I wonder what the real critics will think.