1 Henry IV
Sometimes theatre hurts. Milwaukee Shakespeare’s production of 1 Henry IV can attest to this, having suffered a few minor injuries early in its run. When Jeffrey Withers sustained a show-stopping injury to his lower back, it was only a short while until someone else had suffered a minor broadsword wound to the hand. After a few days, however, the show was back on its feet to start the second weekend with a flourish. Milwaukee Shakespeare continues its multi-season staging of The Henriad, closing its 2006-2007 season with 1 Henry IV.
Jeff Allin stars as King Henry IV, the consummate politician who has taken over a tumultuous empire. Allin’s performance echoes that of any contemporary politician in poise and presence. As the play opens, the audience is made aware of an uprising against him in the south lead by Welshman Owen Glendower (an intense Lawrnce O’Dwyer). Meanwhile, supposed Henry loyalist Henry Percy (a charismatic Brian J. Gill) is refusing to send reinforcements from the north that Henry had requested. As the play opens, the King is summoning Percy back to the court to explain his actions.
Action is particularly intense in the tiny space. The fight scenes are meticulously choreographed with painstaking attention to detail. Careful thought was put into the psychology and motivations behind aggression and it all comes through with a remarkable degree of clarity. Fights are played out in epic slow motion, which runs the risk of seeming silly in such close quarters were it not all so well executed. The interaction between Withers and Ziman is particularly captivating. Both perform with a style and poise that serve as a memorable high point of the production.
The production leads directly into part two without much of a feeling of finality. Local theater audiences will have to wait until next season to see Henry IV wrap up at the Broadway Theatre center. It’s a bit of a strange experience sitting through something like three hours of Shakespeare and not having it reach a final conclusion, but there’s more than enough that reaches some form of resolution to satiate audiences until next season. VS
Milwaukee Shakespeare’s production of 1 Henry IV runs through May 20th at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Studio Theatre. Tickets can be purchased by calling the ticket office at 414-747-9659 or online at www.milwaukeeshakspeare.com.