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Rarely produced ‘Henry IV’ on stage at Stan Hywet

8/7/2014 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Ohio Shakespeare Festival show ‘well acted’

From left, Geoff Knox, Terry Burgler and Andrew Cruse star in Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Henry IV, Part 1.”
Photo: Scott Custer
WEST AKRON — The Ohio Shakespeare Festival once again is challenging its audiences with a difficult and well-acted production of “Henry IV, Part 1,” which is on stage through Aug. 17 at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens.

Written by William Shakespeare, “Henry IV” opens in 1402 and deals with the Plantagenet kings of England, who ruled during the 14th and 15th centuries.

As the play opens, King Henry IV is having troubles on his Scottish and Welsh borders and with the Percy rebels. The most notorious member of the Percy clan is Hotspur. Hotspur has fought for the king against the Scottish. Henry wants him to surrender his prisoners to him. Hotspur wants to keep his Scottish prisoners to trade them for his captured brother-in-law, Edmund Mortimer, who is the brother to Hotspur’s wife, Elizabeth.

“Henry IV” is certainly difficult to produce. The reason it’s not produced more frequently is because the script is long, the language is difficult and the plot is much too complicated.

This production ran more than two and a half hours, including intermission. The language is less accessible than most of Shakespeare’s other plays. Finally, for a complete understanding of the production, one needs to understand the background of the characters and the history of England. 

However, this is a wonderful opportunity to see a production of one of Shakespeare’s most obscure plays.

This also is a great opportunity to see some of the best performances to reach an Akron stage this year.

Joe Pine as Hotspur is stunning. He has a strong, powerful voice and an intellectual understanding of his character. Hotspur was known for having a fiery temper; Pine moves with ease from one temper tantrum to the next. He never misses a line and broadcasts each word to the back row.

Falstaff, a Shakespeare character who appears in more than one of his plays, is played well by Terry Burgler. The costume crew padded Burgler’s costume until he could hardly move around the stage, and, of course, climbing the stairs requires a herculean effort on Falstaff’s part.

Ryan Zarecki is a valuable addition to the Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s company. Zarecki is the fight coach and does a masterful job in this production. Some of the audience members gasped at the various fight scenes. Zarecki coached the actors in using various swords, daggers and other items of war during the 15th century.

Burgler also directed this mammoth production. The script has 24 named characters, plus various extras.

“Henry IV” is difficult to watch. The plot is complicated and the language masks much of the plot line. Yet, I urge you to grab this rare opportunity to see a seldom-produced show.

“Henry IV” starts at 8 p.m. Get to Stan Hywet early enough to see the Greenshow at 7:30 p.m. This Greenshow includes songs, dances and a wonderful parody of Shakespeare’s plays. Unfortunately, there was not a cast list for this part of the entertainment. The performers act later in “Henry IV,” but at the point of noticing who was playing what part in the parody, the audience didn’t have a program.

For ticket information, call 330-673-8761 or visit www.ohioshakespeare.com.


David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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