2 Henry IV

By - Sep 11th, 2007 02:52 pm
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Milwaukee Shakespeare continues its multi-season presentation of the Henriad with part two of Henry the Fourth. The production, which cleverly fills the space of the Broadway Theatre Center’s Studio Theatre, continues the saga of yet another doomed king on his way out of office.

The doomed king in question is the title character as played by Angela Iannone. Thin, sinewy Iannone is a clever casting choice on the part of Milwaukee Shakespeare. Iannone, who has a long history in local theatre, casts the role in a faintly otherworldly light as she makes contact with the character of Henry IV through an almost saturnine stage presence. The king is frail and will die soon — this much is clear in a profoundly visual way before any lines are spoken.

The stage is set up much the same way as it was for the 1 Henry IV last year. The audience flanks the stage with half of them facing the other half through the flurry of drama onstage. This season’s set elevates two of the four entrances at a diagonal to each other, providing a dramatic edge to the flow of action onstage. Everything feels pleasantly out of balance as the events of the play tumble across the stage.

Even the cast feels a bit uneven, albeit affably. This year’s Prince Henry is played by last year’s Hotspur. This year’s Earl of Westmoreland is played by last year’s Gadshill. This year’s Bardolph is played by … last year’s Bardolph. And Michel Pocaro returns for another year in the role of Henry Percy. Jake Russo is every bit as comic in the role as he was last year. Pocaro’s continued exploration of Percy’s personality has been interesting to watch since he first walked onstage in the role as part of Milwaukee Shakespeare’s production of Richard II at the end of the 2005 – 2006 season. Standout performances by those new to Milwaukee Shakes’ Henriad include a deft Bo Johnson in the role of Lord Mowbray, a fiery DeRante Parker as the Earl of Mowbray and a weighty performance by Bob Adrian as the Archbishop of York.

Kevin C. Loomis plays this year’s Falstaff admirably, with all the requisite depth and darkness the character acquires from the first to second part of the series, but he’s playing that role in the shadow of Ricard Ziman’s magnetic performance in the role last year. Loomis stands out in a number of scenes, but his performance here lacks some of the clever nuance Ziman had managed in the same role last year.

Brian J. Gill brings Prince Henry to the stage with precisely the kind of charisma that is so important to the role. With everything as intriguingly off-balance as it is, the ending feels remarkably out of synch with everything that has happened in the series so far. The crown peacefully passes from the withered king as all others look on gravely. And there at the center of it all is Gill — the nice guy becomes king, and many of the characters seem about as comfortable with this as those of us in the audience who have by now seen something like six hours’ worth of constant turmoil onstage. And then Iannone comes out to speak the plays’ final lines, setting things up for the conclusion of the series next year in Henry V. Shakespeare sputtered a bit with this one, which is probably the least accomplished of all the plays in the series, but Milwaukee Shakespeare presents it with enough flair to be well worth seeing. VS

Milwaukee Shakespeare’s production of 2 Henry IV runs now through October 7 at the Broadway Theatre Center’s Studio Theatre. Call 414-747-9659 or visit www.milwaukeshakespeare.com for more info.

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