Henry VI, Part 2
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Charlie Sexton
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2016 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Walden Theatre/Blue Apple Players is on track to become one of only five companies in North America to have produced all of the plays written by William Shakespeare. Artistic Director Charlie Sexton tells us in his curtain speech that next year’s Young American Shakespeare Festival will get the job done, but this year’s unique staging of Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Henry VI is one important step closer in realizing that goal.
There are several Henry plays in the Shakespeare canon. Most of us have encountered Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, and the great character of Falstaff, or the iconic Henry V (“Once more unto the breach…”), but the Henry VI trilogy is rarely produced. Charlie Sexton’s production of Part 2 proves how unfortunate that is. While it is true that it contains no great romance, very little comedy, and nary a clown, there is plenty of political intrigue and personal betrayal in the struggle for power.
Henry (Everett Davis) is actually more of a supporting character in this chapter — a young, inexperienced sovereign who is entirely too trusting. Married to Margaret of Anjou (Catherine Young), his authority is challenged by the Duke of York (Hallie Riddick), and Henry eventually flees for his life. Of course, there is much more to it than that, but part of the value of the production lies in the unfolding of a Shakespearean plot which many in the audience will be experiencing for the first time.
Due respect to the male cast, this Henry is dominated by strong performances by young women like Hallie Riddick, who continues to execute work of authority built on as solid a foundation of technique and experience as you are likely to find on any Louisville stage. Jamie Coffey is also impressive as Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester, who betrays her husband and Henry: a graceful, willowy figure but also ruthless. Rachel Friedland’s Earl of Salisbury makes us forget the slender young woman on stage and see a powerful, rebellious nobleman. Zoe Peterson spends most of the play as Cardinal Beauford, a calculating but wrathful character, but I actually think she was even more interesting in the latter half, clearly enjoying combat in the role of Alexander Iden. Catherine Young brought her characteristic sudden exclamatory outbursts to her portrayal of Margaret, which can come off as gimmicky, but she also displays a mercurial facility of emotional expression, bringing complexity to the female lead.
Kellan Murphy as the Duke of Suffolk and Noah Bunch as the Earl of Warwick do very fine work among the male cast members, as does Alec Elmore as the verbose Duke of Gloucester. The remaining ensemble members all do estimable work.
The design work is top-notch, with Laura Patterson’s costumes delineating allegiance and helping young women who are slight of frame to project the weight and gravitas of English noblemen. Clay Marshall and Eliot Cornet’s set frames the performance space in a fresh manner, and Kathy Preher Reynolds’ dramatic lighting completes the evocative scene.
Part 2 picks up the action from Part 1 without preamble, but I didn’t feel lost. The play ends without resolving Henry’s fate, yet it has a satisfying narrative all its own.
Henry VI, Part 2
Part of the 2016 Young American Shakespeare Festival
Henry VI, Part 1 Henry VI, Part 2 Henry VI, Part 3
May 12 @ 7:30 May 13 @ 7:30 May 14 @ 2:00
May 14 @ 7:30 May 15 @ 2:00 May 15 @ 7:30
May 17 @ 7:30 May 18 @ 7:30 May 19 @ 7:30
May 21 @ 7:30 May 21 @ 2:00 May 20 @ 7:30
May 22 @ 12:30 May 22 @ 4:00 May 22 @ 8:00
Tickets – Evenings:
$15 adult, $10 student/senior
Matinees (Saturdays and Sundays):
$10 adult, $8 student/senior
Nancy Niles Sexton Stage
Walden Theatre/Blue Apple Players
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the day, including being the host of PUBLIC on 97.1 WXOX-LP/Artxfm.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.