With Henry V, actor Rebecca Speas marks her directorial debut with an energetic, well-choreographed production featuring an outstanding cast.
After bringing their critically acclaimed production of Henry IV Parts I & II to The Highwood Theatre this summer, The Rude Mechanicals (RM) continue to deliver excellent interpretations of Shakespeare’s works by bringing its follow-up, Henry V to Greenbelt Arts Center.
Picking up where Henry IV left off, Prince Hal is now King Henry following the death of his father. In an attempt to unite his people around a common cause, he sets out to conquer France and hopes to inspire his subjects along the way. Can Prince Hal live up to his father’s name and become King Henry V, or will his actions only further rip England apart?
Speas, a recent DCMTA ‘Take a Bow’ honoree for her performance in the 2016 Capital Fringe Fest’s Best Overall show Over Her Dead Body, together with Stage Manager Trevor Jones has crafted a moving version of Shakespeare’s classic work that successfully portrays the seeming futility of war and the toll it takes on those who carry it out.
The sound design by Eric Honour’s Sound Design the lighting design by Irene Sitoski and operated by Samuel Kopel, work really well together and make a potentially chaotic play easy to follow. The costumes by Sarah Richardson were spot-on — well-crafted so that they could be from any era and with so many of the actors doubling-up on parts the quick changes make those transitions seamless.
In keeping with their tradition of gender-neutral casting, Allison McAlister tackles the role of King Henry with passion and nobility. It’s clear from the moment she rips onto the stage that her character is ready to shed the innocent roguishness of his youth and embrace his new role as ruler.
She lights up the stage and that energy is echoed by the rest of this amazing cast. Paul Davis, also a DCMTA ‘Take a Bow’ honoree, shines as Henry’s uncle Exeter. He portrays several other characters but his scenes as Exeter, especially when addressing the troops in Act II, are incredible to watch.
Charlie Green is excellent, and he crackles as Gloucester and Nym. Sarah Pfanz makes a hilarious Dauphin, jumping from braggart to coward with a toss of her head that keeps the audience rolling. Rebecca Korn (Bedford/Boy) continues her character’s arc from Henry IV and provides some of the most heartfelt moments of the show.
Leanne Stump (Katharine/Westmoreland) and Liana Olear (Alice/Scroop/Gower) have one of the funniest moments of the play when Olear attempts to give Stump an English lesson. Sean Eustis, Boneza Hanchock, John Wallis, and Diana Dzikiewicz do an incredible job with how many roles each of them portrays, giving each character their own unique personalities and jumping between all of them so well that it’s never once confusing to follow.
Other standout performances include Joshua Engel (Canterbury/King of France) and RM’s Artistic Director Jaki Demarest (Montjoy/Queen Isabel), who both bring depth and gravitas to their respective roles. Lisa Hill-Corley, who has some of the most difficult lines of the play as the Chorus, is integral to keeping the pace and flow of the story on track. Her eyes light up as she describes the action, helping to propel the energy of the show forward.
“Energy” is a great one-word description for this production of Henry V. The Rude Mechanicals have created a fantastic retelling of one of Shakespeare’s beloved history plays that features a stellar, hard-working cast.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission.