Henry V

By William Shakespeare

henty V
Henry V at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Directed by Christopher Luscombe

At Chicago Shakespeare Theater

“We few. We happy few.
We band of brothers, for he today
That sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.”
― William Shakespeare, Henry V

Fast  paced and meticulously acted Shakespeare history play thrills

British director Christopher Luscombe’s accessible Henry V  is a tour de force from Canadian actor Harry Judge who possesses the youthfulness, charm and charisma necessary to be the wild tavern patron who hung with Falstaff now thrust into leadership as King Henry V of England. He abounds his old drinking pals Bardolph (Bret Tuomi), Nym (Larry Neumann, Jr.), and Pistol ( Greg Vinkler), all of whom morn the death of the Falstaff,   as Henry is determined to be an effective monarch.

henryv   Henry needs to unite his kingdom by enforcing his dynasty’s claim to the French crown. He assembles an army to take France as he is determined to demonstrate his worth as a man and king. The French dismiss the English threat until Henry’s army besieges the French town of Harfleur. The French then mobilizes large army to confront Henry. henry12 The retreating exhausted English army is in disarray but the arrogant French and fail to take advantage. Henry, fearful for his army, goes into disguise to assess the morale of his troops. He is uplifted by what he finds and his rousing speech before the Battle of Agincourt (a gem delivered by the fabulous turn from Harry Judge) rallies his troops to victory. He not only gains the French throne but also claims the hand of French princess Katherine (Laura Rook). henry14 Luscombe’s production looks terrific on Kevin Depinet’s set nicely lit by Philip S. Rosenberg dressed by Mariann S. Verheyen’s period-perfect costumes with fine sound design by Lindsay Jones.  But this production highlights Shakespeare’s stunning rhetoric so elegantly enunciated by skilled classically trained cast. The wit, humor and power of The Bard’s use of language is so clearly spoken that it thrills. henryv Besides the wonderful work by Harry Judge, Chicago favorites Kevin Gudahl (Duke of Exeter), Patrick Clear (Sir Thomas Erpingham), David Lively (Archbishop of Canterbury) and James Newcomb (Captsain Fluellen) together with Larry Neumann, Jr. (Nym), Bret Tuomi (Bardolph) gave yeoman performances. Greg Vinkler was particularly fine as the comic Pistol and the French king. henry16   The ensemble was outstanding with many articulate speeches and soliloquies including a terrific opening narration explaining to the audience  that this production is a play. There were some fresh face that did exquisite work here. among them was Kevin Quinn who deftly played Boy as servant to Henry’s army leaders. Quinn, who is a junior  at New Trier High School, was charismatic, funny, and quite articulate. His enthusiasm lifted his scenes. Kevin Quinn demonstrated a skill level far beyond his years. He has a bright future. In summary, Henry V is a worthy, world class production that exemplifies fantastic acting by a troupe of committed players who know and respect Shakespeare’s  cannon. It is so refreshing to witness skilled players at the top of their art delivering the such well crafted material. This is not a stuffy history work,rather a consuming, articulate and thrilling production.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: May 7, 2014

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Henry V page at theatreinchicago.com At Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, Chicago, Il, call 312-595-5600, www.chicagoshakes.com, tickets $48 – $88,   Wednesdays at 1 & 7:30 pm, Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes with intermission, through June 15, 2014