Henry V’s humor takes center stage – The Millbrook Independent

by Kevin T. McEneaney

No one but William Shakespeare could take a script about patriotism and war and turn it into a wonderful comedy, as he does so wonderfully in Henry Vwritten in 1599. This production of a long masterpiece (somewhat abbreviated to its three running hours) at the Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck under the direction of Joe Eriole (who also acts as a worthy narrator) projects local charm and remarkable acting performances at the famous Battle of Agincourt (1415).

Taylor Watson Seupel as Henry bears a passing physical resemblance to the original Henry, who, had he lived a few months longer than dying suddenly in 1422 about two weeks before his thirty-sixth birthday, would have reigned in as King of Wales, England, Normandy, and France. Seupel delivers a passionate performance of a warrior with a poet’s touch and a cunning, heartfelt affability that transcends normal regency. Seupel’s superb performance echoes the current leadership of Ukrainian President Zelensky.

Josh Ezra as the comedic Dolphin who struts around in boastful vanity brings a smile to everyone in the audience. Peter Kiewra as Pistol turns the trick into being both comedic and heartfelt. Mark Colvson as Westmoreland delivers an augustly noble tone in his resonant voice. Alex Skovan as King of France convincingly portrays a senile figurine of the mentally handicapped king who is unsure of what is going on, which was the historical situation.

Peter Kiewra as Pistol

Ellie DeMan as Nym is a delight of memorable agility. In this production, there are more women than men, yet the ladies are credible as actresses. Wendy Urban-Mead as Gower carries the lion’s share of gravity while Stephanie Hepburn as Fluellen plays the part in a strictly comedic fashion and her performance is one of the wonderful highlights of this production.

Kirstin Horn (also a production manager) as Quickly exudes warmth, humor and common sense while Geneva Turner as fourteen-year-old Princess Katherine, who speaks only French and finds the absurd English language, gives a real French accent during the seductive “Kiss Me”. Kate” scene which she plays with bashful shyness. When Henry woos her, he asks her if she finds his face frightening. She watches in dramatic, obsessed wonder – Henry had lost his right eye to an arrow there was ten years old fighting in Wales, which is why his later portraits only appear in profile.Warrior Henry vaguely resembles the portrait of Plutarch by Mark Anthony in Thomas North’s 1579 translation.

Alex Skovan, Taylor Watson Seupel, Geneva Turner

There is a lot of fencing in this version. The three-day battle was fought by improved longbow archers, many of the English wearing 200-pound antique half-century iron ring mail (while the French carried around sixty pounds of new plate of steel) wielding medieval double-headed axes, pikes and masses of morning stars in a wooden jungle-gym cleverly designed and built in a single day. (A menacing hatchet in production hints at more primitive weapons.)

Costume designer Donna Letteri deserves a round of applause, as does fight choreographer Erin Hebert.

Amid the mud of brutal war and sweet love banter, Shakespeare’s humor in this production shines brightly in the most successful patriotic play ever written.

This playful and casual production is made possible by the Sam Scripps Shakespeare Festival; it runs until April 3, living the brief life of a passing butterfly.

Joe Eriole (center in white) and cast