By Luigi Pirandello.
Translated by Tom Stoppard.
Directed by Nick Sandys.
Produced by Remy Bumppo think theatre.
At the Greenhouse Theatre, Chicago.
Tour de force performance by Mark L. Montgomery carries Henry IV.
One of the main reasons to see Pirandello’s Henry IV is to enjoy the fantastic work by Mark L. Montgomery as the possibly mad Italian nobleman. Montgomery is one of the most skilled actors working on Chicago stages. His ability to articulate and dominate the stage leaving much doubt if his character is cured from his insanity or still mad or possibly playing games with his enablers? With Pirandello there is always doubt as to where fantasy and reality end. Questions of identify, truth and psychology receive unique treatment by Pirandello. His Henry IV is a fascinating character who exposes the above traits. Mark L. Montgomery deftly dominates much of Tom Stoppard’s 95 minute adaptation od the Italian playwright’s Henry IV.
“An Italian nobleman falls from his horse at a costume party and suddenly believes he is German Emperor Henry IV. While at first they play along, his friends decide that 20 years is long enough to indulge his regal fantasy, and they seek the help of a renowned psychiatrist to shock him back to reality. Re-imagined by Tom Stoppard, Pirandello’s Henry IV is a gripping spiral of revelations that illuminates the distorted line between madness and sanity.” ( from the press note).
Before the curtain, be advised to read the director’s notes and the dramaturgical perspective by Peter A. Davis. I say that because Pirandello’s play is designed to be vague and ambiguous. It is easy to get confused as to what is going on and why on stage. Just be aware that the psychologist doctor (Noah Simon) has orchestrated an intervention to help find out if, after twenty years, if Henry is, indeed ‘cured’ of his insanity.
This complex mysterious work is completely fueled by Montgomery’s brilliantly ambiguous performance that if you focus on whether he exhibits sane traits or is he faking sanity or faking insanity. In Montgomery’s performance, we never know for sure. Therein lies the genius of Montgomery’s performance, to Pirandello’s writhing and to Nick Sandys’ direction. We never know for sure. Henry IV is one of those confounding plays that pays of if you stay with it. Seeing Montgomery’s award caliber performance is enough to make you visit to the Greenhouse worthwhile.
Date Reviewed: October 10, 2016.
For more info checkout the Pirandello’s Henry IV page at theatreinchicago.com.
At the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL, call 773-404-7336, www.remybumppo.org, tickets $42.50 – $52.50, Thursdays the=ru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm, Wednesday, Oct. 26 & Nov 9 at 7:30 pm, running time is 95 minutes with intermission, through November 13, 2016.