Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
1 Henry IV
Also see Susan's review of Doubt: A Parable
Director Rosa Joshi has brought together 14 actors, most of whom play multiple roles, to present Shakespeare's examination of honor, duty and responsibility. As the focus shifts back and forth between the threat to Henry's court from Hotspur (an impassioned Tyler Fauntleroy) and his allies in Wales and Scotland and Prince Hal's dissolute life with Falstaff, the same actors reappear in different guises.
To showcase the timelessness of Shakespeare's story of corruption both high and low, Joshi has moved it from its historical medieval setting to an indeterminate present. Sara Ryung Clement has created an industrial scenic design of metal plates, platforms on mobile scaffolding, and a royal throne that, when placed on its side, becomes Falstaff's bed. Kathleen Geldard's costumes play up the dichotomy of class differences: the nobility and royals dress in sleek suits with high-collared jackets (or tailored dresses, like Naomi Jacobson as Hotspur's aunt Worcester); soldiers wear modified leather jerkins over their clothes; Falstaff and his friends wear whatever they can get their hands on.
Most striking is the portrayal of Falstaff's revels as a literal disco, lit by Jesse Belsky with atmospheric washes of color and jolts from slashing bars of light, and Palmer Hefferan's industrial sound design and pulsing music.
Gero captures the larger-than-life quality of Falstaff, as interested in trickery and lawlessness as he is in drinking, thieving, and chasing women. He also captures the man's two levels of devotion to Prince Hal: as a beloved surrogate son and, he thinks, as his future path to power as a member of the court. His rough charm and humor can't quite hide his determination to use others for his own benefit.
Other notable cast members are Maboud Ebrahimzadeh as Henry's ally Blunt and Hotspur's brother-in-law Mortimer; Maribel Martinez as Hotspur's strong-willed wife; and U. Jonathan Toppo as two men who understand the uses of duplicity, Hotspur's father Northumberland and the Welsh leader Glendower.