Shakespearean productions have been known to be performed at two, three, or even four hours, and on many occasions it feels like it. Unfortunately for Shakeapeare Santa Cruz's 2011 production of Henry IV: Part 1, the show feels like its three hours as this production had continuity and transitional scenes that had timing issues as well as inconsistencies in costume designs by B. Modern, whose design for The Three Musketeers were simply fabulous.
There were some scene transitions that didn't run so smoothly including the one between the first scene from Wales to England. And the costumes seemed to be an odd mix between the early 18th and the late 19th centuries with steel armor, Cowboy hats, chaps, and long leather coats among other accessories.
The show opens with plenty of pomp and circumstance as well as horns blaring as King Henry IV (played by V. Craig Heidenreich) takes power in England from King Richard II (Allen Gilmore) after a civil war. Henry has a son - also named Henry (Erik Heger) - with the title Prince of Wales but is better known by his friends as Hal or Harry. And there is another Henry - Henry Percy nicknamed Hotspur (J. Todd Adams), who is one of Henry IV's trusted military officers and hero.
Henry IV would like the Prince of Wales to eventually take the seat of the throne after him; however, the Prince of Wales enjoys being in the tavern too much more than being on the battlefield as the warrior Hotspur. Hal loves the pleasures of drinking and the women at the tavern, especially with his friend, Sir John Falstaff (Richard Ziman).
After winning a major battle, Hotspur is requested by King Henry to send all notable prisoners of war to the King's presence. But Hotspur only sends one of those prisoners, and this action makes the King question Hotspur's loyalty to the throne.
This resulted in Hotspur being summoned to the presence of King Henry, and eventually leads to another civil war between Henry & Hal against Hotspur, who has the Earls of Worcester (Kit Wilder) and Northumberland (Phil Hubbard) as well as the countries of Wales and Scotland on his side. Hotspur also has Lord Edmund Mortimer (Leigh Nichols Miller) and Lady Mortimer (Sepideh Moafi) as allies. The war is long and severe.
The acting is superb, especially the scenes between Heger and Adams as well as the comedic scense between Ziman, Heger, and Gilmore, who also played Ned Poins in the tavern scenes as well as the Scottish Earl of Douglas during the epic battle scenes. Heidenreich pleasurably performs as King Henry, and Ziman is a delight to watch on stage.
The women in this play were not outdone as Moafi's cherubic voice received loud applauses and ovations from the audience, especially for her solo song sung in Welsh. And Katie MacNichol as Lady Percy was outstanding while Lenne Klingaman played hot & sexy to perfection as the tavern whore, Doll Tearsheet.
The fight choreography was satisfactory though the epic battle scene was a bit odd as it was reenacted in slow motion. Otherwise, the swordfights were remarkable, especially the battles between Hal and Hotspur.
The other technical elements of the show were solid. Michael Ganio's multi-level scenic design was phenomenal as it was for The Three Musketeers; the lighting design by Peter West were perfectly warm and cool at the appropriate times during the play; Rodolfo Ortega's sound design was marvelous; and props by Lydia Bushfield along with make-up, hair, and wig designs by Jakey Hicks & Jessica Carter were flawless.
Henry IV: Part 1 concludes its run Aug. 28th @ 7:30 PM at Shakespeare Santa Cruz (SSC). The show is approximately three hours with a 15-minute intermission. For tickets & production information, call (831) 459-2159 or (831) 459-2121. In addition, click on the links below provide more detailed information on the show:
SSC 2011 Season information: http://www.shakespearesantacruz.org/season/2011_season.php