Henry V—Theatre

The good news…Henry V, directed by David Muse, picks up steam in the second act. The bad news…it takes 1 ½ hours to get there and the play is three hours long.

For this reviewer, there are problems in the first act…for whatever reasons the actors/dialogue don’t gel. As my theatre-going companion said, “there’s no passion.” But then something wonderful happens in the second act, following intermission.  The French are on display, the play comes alive and the juice they infuse makes its way into the rest of the play.

It’s unclear why director Muse has decided to use three storytellers rather than just one–two men, one dressed as a military official and one dressed like a modern-day professor, and a woman who dresses in several costumes from present-day to 13th century garb, to propel the story. There’s no rhyme or reason for this. It adds nothing to the play and is a director’s conceit that becomes distracting.

Distractions aside, Henry V is very well acted, particularly by Michael Hayden as Henry V and Tom Story as Dauphin. In supporting, dual roles, Naomi Jacobson and Floyd King bring much-needed zip to the evening’s performance.

The courting of Henry and Katherine near the end of the play come across as another play altogether. The scene feels completely out of context with the seriousness of the rest of the play. Michael Hayden portrays a goof ball in love extremely well, but this side of his character is like a bolt of the blue and the chemistry with Katherine (Rachael Holmes) isn’t there yet. Perhaps it will come.

Henry V’s sets are breathtakingly imaginative as one has come to expect from the Shakespeare Theatre’s set design team.  The fight scenes are extremely creative and well done.

I saw Henry V in previews, so it’s possible that the kinks in the first act and some of the other problems will sort themselves out. If so, the three hours may go by a lot faster and you’ll not need a shot of No-Doze to stay awake until intermission.

Sidney Harman Hall 610 F Street NW, Washington, DC 20004

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