We Lucky Few
Pacific Repertory's Henry V shows promise.
Thursday, September 26, 2002
Photo: Boyz II Men-John Farmanesh-Bocca plays the grown-up Prince Hal in Pacific Repertory Theatre''s Henry V.
The opening night production of Henry V seemed curiously disjointed. Although there were many fine performances and thoroughly enjoyable scenes, it somehow never quite seemed to gel. This is the last show in Pacific Repertory Theatre''s grueling summer season; perhaps as the show''s run continues, and the cast is able to get some rest from rehearsals, this problem will heal itself.
As can be expected from director Stephen Moorer, the show is well staged. He fills the multiple levels of Marc Haniuk''s handsome turntable set with splashes of color and action and gives the audience many bits of memorable eye candy. There''s probably no better director on the Peninsula for mounting shows that capture royal pageantry and heroic battle scenes. Too, Moorer is one of the better directors for developing conceptual contexts for his productions and communicating that concept to the audience. In this production, those concepts achieve mixed results.
The show opens with the Chorus (James Kiberd) rising from the audience and giving a chatty background to the play. The sequence is concluded by having the audience chant the opening phrase of the play three times. While this could give the show a tremendous burst of opening energy, it could also (as it did on opening night) simply detract from the inherent power in "O for a Muse of fire..."
There are several similar conceptual bits (particularly in the first act) that are enjoyable in themselves, but which also divert an audience''s attention from the script. The Archbishop of Canterbury gives a slide-show history lesson to King Henry, trying to convince the wavering King that his claim to French lands is justified; in this production, the scene turns to comedy. Just before the battle of Agincourt, there is a scene in which the French court recline in a sauna, listening to opera. The scene concludes with a rising moon, just before intermission, that leaves a lasting impression-even if it doesn''t really further the story.
Some of the show''s best moments come from actors in the smaller parts. Most notable of these is Lucinda Serrano''s portrayal of the French Princess Katherine. She delivers the role with such charming, girlish glee that it feels like the first time we''ve seen the character struggle with her broken English. She bubbles, she fumes, she pouts and, with the help of costumer Kathryn Hart''s elegantly glowing gold dress in the final scene, she manages to seem regal at the same time.
Amy Washburn as Nell (formerly Mistress Quickly, now married to Pistol) has a very moving moment mourning the death of Falstaff and then watching as her husband and friends, Bardolph and Nym, march off to war. As the scene ends, Washburn expresses through body language alone the pain felt by women the world over when they watch their men leave for battle. As Nym, Scott Harrison also scores a fine scene with a speech to the disguised king, describing his uncertainty and fears about the coming battle.
Tim Hart, playing Pistol, that fiery braggart, brings a welcome energy to every scene in which he appears, as does Anthony Piana, who plays Louis the Dauphin, son of the French King Charles. Piana''s energetic temper tantrums and posturing, in Peter Sellers-style French accent, give a nice background to his coming cowardly act. As for the diversity of the rest of the "French" accents, one can only guess they are intended to depict the country''s various regions and dialects.
Playing the dual role of Chorus and the Welsh Captain Fluellen, James Kiberd has a rousing scene in which Fluellen confronts the fiery Pistol and forces him to eat a leek.
And in the title role, although he has several fine moments, there''s a certain unevenness to John Farmanesh-Bocca''s performance. Although he is kingly and commanding when responding to Montjoy (Kevin Black) the French Herald, and though he''s charmingly ill-at-ease when courting Katherine, he is less inspiring when addressing his court and troops.
All in all, the potential for a strong production is in place, and in the coming five weeks, the cast may fulfill that potential.
Henry V plays at the Golden Bough Playhouse through Oct. 13. For tickets call 622-0100.