Sunday, August 29, 2021

Theater Memories Part 13: Shakespeare The Histories

David Tenant as Richard II
Credit: Keith Pattison
To complete my Shakespeare recollections, here are all the history plays I can remember seeing (again this is only stage versions, there are too many film and TV productions to list):

Richard II: David Tenant (one of my all-time favorite Doctor Whos) RSC at BAM in rep with both parts of Henry IV and Henry V; Steven Skybell (Theater for a New Audience); Peter MacNichol (Delacorte).

Henry IV, Parts I and II: Alex Hassell (RSC at BAM, the same series as the David Tenant Richard II, Anthony Sher was a brilliant Falstaff); a really weird production directed by JoAnne Akalitis at the Public; a one-evening adaptation at the Vivian Beaumont at Lincoln Center with Kevin Kline as Falstaff, Michael Hayden as Prince Hal, Richard Easton as King Henry IV, Ethan Hawke as Hotspur, with Dana Ivey, Audra MacDonald and Dakin Matthews (who did the adaptation); Shakespeare and Company, Lenox, Mass.

Henry V: Twice at the Delacorte with Kevin Kline and then Andre Braugher; Alex Hassell in the RSC/BAM four-part production; Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, set during World War I. Act One had the soldiers in a trench rehearsing for a performance of Henry V, then Act Two, they are all in the hospital, wounded, and the nurses take part.

Henry VI, Parts I, II and III: A Chicago company put together all three plays with an all-male cast and called it Rose Rage, it played Off-Broadway; Public Theater did all three in rep in a fairly strong staging of these difficult, unwieldy plays.

Mark Rylance as Richard III,
one of the best Shakespeare
performances I've ever seen.
Credit: Simon Annand
Richard III: Mark Rylance with an all-male cast (in rep with Twelfth Night) this probably the best Richard I've ever seen, if not the best Shakespeare performance I've ever witnessed. Rylance spoke the lines as if they had never been uttered before. Too many actors treat the lines as sacred and come across as intoning scripture rather than just speaking. Some of the audience was on stage and it was as if he was letting them in on his conspiracy to steal the throne. 

Kevin Spacey for the Bridge Project at BAM--he shouted and screamed, did not regulate his rage and peaked too early in the performance, got really boring.

Ian McKellan at the National Theatre in London, in rep with King Lear. This was the production set in Fascist 1930s Europe that McKellen later adapted to the screen with an all-star cast including Dame Maggie Smith, Annette Benning and Robert Downey, Jr. 

Denzel Washington at the Delacorte. Washington was not very memorable. The performance that stands out is Mary Alice as Queen Margaret.

Theater for a New Audience (in rep with Richard II--can't remember too much about it).

Druid Shakespeare production--set in a slaughterhouse, brilliant production directed by Gerry Hynes.

I saw 30 mins. of Kevin Kline playing Richard in Central Park, but it got rained out.

Henry VIII: Reuben Santiago-Hudson (Delacorte).

King John: Kevin Conway/Mariette Hartley/Jane White (Delacorte).

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