Five reasons you should see the Rep’s new production of “Henry V”

5. Avery Clark. With “Henry V” you have a chance to see a handsome production of one of Shakespeare’s top shelf history plays, which comes on the heels of the Rep’s terrific production of “Hamlet” in 2010. Rep audiences are lucky enough to witness Avery Clark in the title role in both plays.  Clark is one of those rare actors who is in command in every moment he’s on stage. There are two scenes in “Henry V” where Clark’s powers seem especially present. The first is at the beginning when young king Henry is on his throne and is given the mocking gift of a trunk of tennis balls by the Dauphine of France. Clark is so still and calm in this scene that you take notice when he lifts a hand to direct the attendants in his court.  Then, near the end, as Henry is wooing non-English speaking Katherine (played by Nikki Coble) to be his queen, Clark displays his uncanny comic timing. The scene just floats off the stage and the audience responds with sustained laughter.

4. The cast of “The 39 Steps” is reunited.  Joining Clark on stage in “Henry V” is the rest of the Rep’s cast from the hilarious production of “The 39 Steps” – Coble is the would-be queen who first ducks Henry’s kiss, Jason Guy pulling double duty as Chorus and Montjoy and Collins as the discipline-loving Welch soldier Fluellen.  This quartet that was so strong in “The 39 Steps” is no less so in “Henry V.” Don’t know if there is another play in the Rep’s future that would have roles for all four but one can hope.

3. Local actors shine.  Director Bob Hupp has put together a strong cast for this “Henry V”  and it includes a number of local faces who happen to be very busy during the course of the production. Michael Bartholmey plays three roles (Grey/Messenger/York),  Andrew Curzon, a freshman at Parkview Arts and Science High School plays Boy, Sheila Glasscock is Mistress Quckly and Alice, Bill Jones takes on three roles (French Ambassador/Erpingham/Bourbon) and Ed Lowry plays Bardolph and Gloucester. There is not a weak link among these actors in supporting roles.

2. A different Shakespeare.  The more one is exposed to Shakespeare, the more one can appreciate how the great dramatist was an entertainer as much as poet and profound thinker.  “Henry V” is at once a carefully balanced underdog tale (Henry’s ragtag forces are constantly being noted as sick as well as outnumbered by the massive French army before they triumph), a meditation on honor and the high cost of battle along with precise moments of levity (in nobody’s hands but Shakespeare’s would a scene as simple as Katherine’s instructions in English by her attendant Alice be written much less as fun as it is). Of course there are Henry’s rousing speeches to his troops (“Once more into the breach, dear friends”) and the Chorus’ attempt to paint the scene (“Can this cockpit hold/The vasty fields of France”) as prime examples of Shakespeare’s word sorcery.  In short, “Henry V” is a rich buffet and the Rep’s production serves it all up with flavor to spare.

1. Celebrate Mike Nichols.  With this production, Mike Nichols, the Rep’s resident set designer and technical director Mike Nichols, celebrates 30 years with the company. His set for “Henry V” is another one of his signature playing spaces. Wood beams shoot to the sky beside a platform equipped with a pair of wooden screens. It is both functional world for the army of actors and a visual knockout which is, of course, exactly what a theatre space must be. Rep audiences are truly lucky to have someone as talented and dedicated to his craft as Nichols. There are simply not that many designers who have remained at one theatre for the course of their career. An exhibit of Nichols’ work – sketches and photos from past shows – is on display in the bar on the second mezzanine.  It is worth the time to check out the singular creative output of this master artist.

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Werner Trieschmann

About Werner Trieschmann

Werner Trieschmann is the Dramaturg for Arkansas Repertory Theatre. Werner has had plays produced across the United States and, most recently, in England, Italy and Romania. His work has been staged at Moving Arts in Los Angeles, Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York, The New Theatre in Boston and Red Octopus Productions in Little Rock. His comedy "You Have to Serve Somebody" (Dramatic Publishing) was developed at the Mount Sequoyah New Play Retreat in Fayetteville. He won first prize in the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans New Play Competition and was the first playwright to receive the Porter Prize, recognizing outstanding achievement by an Arkansas writer. He holds an MFA in playwriting from Boston University.

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