Thou knowest in the state of innocency Adam fell; and what should poor Jack Falstaff do in the days of villany? Thou seest I have more flesh than another man, and therefore more frailty.
Henry IV, Part 1, 3. 3
The Seattle Shakespeare Company located in the Seattle Centerhouse (near the Space Needle) has once again proven that the text of any of Shakespeare’s canon can be made vital to modern society and current conflicts. Indeed we know that love– that red, red rose– will never completely die away: Romeo and Juliet are catholic to all literary students. And the same for the tragedies– Macbeth, Othello, and woe be the student that does not attempt Hamlet!
But Shakespeare’s histories are often the fodder for the slow-months of theatrical seasons. They are not spring comedies or summer romances; tragedy is left for the autumn. Rather, they are the stuff of winter, full of dense politics and violent metal that best reflects our coolest months.
Perhaps that is why the SSC decided to give Henry IV, BOTH PARTS!, a chance in this November month.
Stephanie Shine, the creative director at SSC, helms the director’s chair for this 3 hour play. Her past success with the all-male cast of The Taming of the Shrew and the side-splitting Comedy of Errors sets her for almost pre-curtain applause. And indeed, her vision and that of her staff and actors, performs to the fullest.
By putting the two parts of Henry IV together, Ms. Shine challenges even the avid Oxfordian to a 3-hour and ten minute play (two intermissions!). But every second is worth it, just as many people didn’t realize that watching the whole of Lord of the Rings was the duration of all daylight hours. In all honesty, I wished it would never end. This is the Lord of the Rings for Shakespeare nerds.
Much applause is due to Richard Ziman as Falstaff. One of my favorite Shakespearean characters, Ziman brings all the loveable bombast to our favorite drunkard. He swags and scratches constantly at his beard; he holds his belly up and his eyes twinkle more than any Hallmark Santa Claus. He’s adoreable, loveable, and always lively. Cross that with the more unsuspecting characteristics of theif, bawd, brawler, and pervert, you have an entertaining character at the least.
Now set up this jolly rogue in opposition to Henry’s father, King Henry, played by David Pichett and you have the work of centuries of scholars laid out in front of you. This is a play about fathers and sons and the distorted elements of pride, jealousy, and honor that distorts a pure familial bond. Pichett’s movements are exact, his voice is confident and though small in stature, his robed figure is mean.
Now who will prevail over the young Prince Hal? Will this young Prince choose the fetter-less life of drunkards or will he realize his royal obligation?
(That last question/line reminds me of the second act in the Lion King. Falstaff = Puma/Timon; Hal = Simba)
Now take that horrible Disney analogy and get ye to a box-office!
Seattle Shakespeare Company • Ticket Office 206-733-8222
Online Tickets here: http://www.seattleshakespeare.org/boxoffice/index.asp