Wednesday, April 14, 2010

War is not all talk

Henry V, though one of the best known history plays, still presents a challenge when it comes to staging since the crowd scenes require some imaginative directorial moves. Unfortunately ATA's lifeless production lacked more than just imagination. Actors had successfully memorized the lines but their affectless delivery compounded with long periods of virtual immobility made the play's full three and a half hours excruciating to sit through. Gluttons for punishment, and loyal to our cause, we did so nonetheless, emerging starved and furious upon the end of a spring night with a lot more fire in our tirades than in the rants the French and English soldiers threw at one another. They were supposed to be showing a real battle, and they didn't even smolder. That the performance furthermore started at least fifteen minutes late was an added affront, explainable only by the fact that there were sixteen people including us in the audience. After intermission that had whittled down to eleven. The actors who made the play passably tolerable at rare moments were Kate Tenetko in the role of Hostess Nell, Cory Hibbs as Pistol, and Tobias Shaw as the Dauphin. My advice to them is to run a million miles from another ATA production. Sadly this is the second one we've seen and it certainly didn't make up for the last.

Thankfully, the next day we saw Peter Brook's refreshing interpretation of several sonnets in Love is my sin and were reminded how simple good acting can be. With careful and sincere gesture Michael Pennington in particular showed the sheer range of emotion that a simple face and body can transmit. I'd see him do the entire Henry V as a one-man show any day.

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