Review: ‘Henry IV, Part II’ at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

After a smashing opening of Henry IV, Part I, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (CSC) has brought forth its terrific sequel, Henry IV, Part II. This play is wordier and less bloody than its predecessor and focuses on life-altering transitions for its hero, Prince Hal, his father, King Henry, and Hal’s friend Falstaff. Henry IV, Part II was brilliantly co-directed by CSC Founder and Artistic Director Ian Gallanar and Gerrad Alex Taylor, a CSC Associate Artistic Director. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (CSC) is offering both Henry IV, Part I and Part II in repertory on Saturdays, March 23 and March 30.

Prince Hal (Séamus Miller) cradles his father, King Henry IV (Ron Heneghan), who is weak from failing health. Photo by Brandon W. Vernon.
Prince Hal (Séamus Miller) cradles his father, King Henry IV (Ron Heneghan), who is weak from failing health. Photo by Brandon W. Vernon.

Henry IV, Part II focuses on the conflict between rebels to the crown, led by the Archbishop of York and Lords Mowbray and Hastings, against King Henry IV in English locations such as Northumberland, Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, London, and Wales, between the years 1403 and 1413. Gallanar chose to explore the familial aspects of the story: “I am also deeply affected by both of the Henry IV plays and their exploration of relationships between fathers and their children.”

Audiences were again treated to the amazing talents of Séamus Miller as Prince Henry aka Prince Hal; Gregory Burgess as the bumbling braggart Sir John Falstaff; Scott Alan Small as Bardolph; Keith Snipes as the Earl of Northumberland; Tamieka Chavis as Mistress Quickly; Molly Moores as the Duke of Gloucester, and Ron Heneghan as the fading-away King Henry IV.

The acting was again superb. Miller, as Prince Hal, uttered a devastating rebuke to one of his past Boar’s Head Inn friends: “I know thee not, old man. Fall to thy prayers. How ill white hairs become a fool and jester!”

Taylor, who played Hotspur in Part I, was able, along with Gallanar, to craft a moving performance by Heneghan, especially in his scenes with Miller. Under such intense direction, Nello DeBlasio excelled as the Archbishop of York. Gregory Michael Atkin and Bart Debicki played Lords Mowbray and Hastings respectively.

Gallanar and Taylor were assisted in understanding the ins and outs of Shakespeare’s text by Dramaturg Kathryn M. Moncrief, Ph.D. Shakespeare had less historical material to deal with in Part II. Moncrief explained that Shakespeare changed many events listed in Raphael Holinshed’s “Chronicles of England.” Moncrief wrote of Shakespeare: “From Holinshed and others, he took both plot details and mistakes…”

Part II, just like Part I, brought the most merriment to audiences during Falstaff’s scenes in the Boar’s Head Inn. In Part II, Falstaff rode the false reputation of having killed Hotspur in battle. In a Boar’s Head scene, Burgess had good interaction with Ashly Fishell-Shaffer, who played Doll Tearsheet.

Friends gather in the Boar’s Head tavern (left to right), Bardolph (Scott Alan Small), Doll Tearsheet (Ashly Fishell-Shaffer), Sir John Falstaff (Gregory Burgess), and Mistress Quickly (Tamieka Chavis). Photo by Brandon W. Vernon.
Friends gather in the Boar’s Head tavern (left to right), Bardolph (Scott Alan Small), Doll Tearsheet (Ashly Fishell-Shaffer), Sir John Falstaff (Gregory Burgess), and Mistress Quickly (Tamieka Chavis). Photo by Brandon W. Vernon.

Brendan Murray had many impressive speeches as Lord Chief of Justice. Steven J. Hoochuk brought intensity to his role as the Earl of Westmoreland. DJ Batchelor captured my attention as John of Lancaster.

Projected stained-glass and maps of England were cleverly projected by Lighting Designer Katie McCreary onto tall wooden walls, which were part of Scenic Designer Daniel O’Brien’s minimalist set, with chairs, tables, and other props provided by Properties Designers Alexander Rothschild and Willow Watson.

Music Director Grace Srinivasan, as she did in Part I, procured 15th-century period songs, sung by Murray, Debicki, Michael Crowley and Briana Manente, including: “Cryer’s Songe of the Cheape-side,”  “Fain Would I Wed,” “Three Ravens” and “When the King Enjoys His Own”.

Because it is in part pseudo-history imagined by Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part II demands much attention from its audience–the speeches are formidable. Gallanar and Taylor have co-directed an engaging evening of Shakespeare for theater lovers of all ages.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Henry IV, Part II plays through April 7, 2019, at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, 7 South Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 244-8570, or purchase them online.