MONTPELIER Tennis, anyone? No, thank you, says Englands King Henry V when sent an insulting treasure of tennis balls by Frances prince (the Dauphin), a gift mocking young, once dissolute Henrys claim to some French dukedoms.
Henrys enraged rejection of the belittling sports spheres leads to his understandably macho declaration of war on France.
If you hate Shakespeare, you should see the Lost Nation Theater (LNT) production of his Henry V. Filled with stirring speeches, ferocious action, forsaken friendship, sweet romance, comic relief, and a realistic perspective on the causes and consequences of war, the play may change your mind about the Bard.
Recognizing the plays tragic irony, critic Harold Bloom calls it brilliant and subtle. Although carefully adapted in Laurence Oliviers 1944 film version to motivate English soldiers, the play also highlights the self interest and pettiness that can lead to the widows tears, the orphans cries/ The dead mens blood, the priv褠maidens groans.
For example the play begins with a single-person Chorus glorifying the Mars-like Henry, but then immediately spotlights two scheming bishops who want Henry to wage war so that the churchs precious possessions will not be seized by proposed legislation.
Paul Molnar plays Henry, a monarch who can be just and romantic as well as brutal and ruthless. Poet W.B. Yeats emphasized that Henry has the gross vices, the coarse nerves of one who is to rule among violent people.
I hope [Henry V] will make people question morality, war, entitlement and responsibilities from people in power, Molnar says. Theater is here to entertain, yes, but also to raise questions and open a dialogue with the audience, to make them question and test what they believe.
Although LNT presents the play in period dress, the Michigan Shakespeare Festival recently cast Molnar as Henry in modern military clothing, underscoring Shakespeares timeless themes.
Need more inspiration? YouTube.com has Henrys passionate St. Crispins Day speech (We few, we happy few) from Kenneth Branaghs 1989 film version of the play. And Burlingtons Waterfront Video, 370 Shelburne Road, 802-660-5545, has the Branagh and Olivier films in their collections.
If Henry V converts you into a Harry fan (no, not PotterHarry and Hal were Henrys nicknames), you will immensely enjoy the WebEnglishTeacher.com website on Henry V. Among other things it contains James Agees rave review of Oliviers film and Scott Newstoks thoughtful analysis of Henry V/George W. Bush comparisons.
A continuation of LNTs Fall Foliage Shakespeare tradition, Henry V will rule the stage Thurs. through Sun., Sept. 20 Oct. 7 at City Hall Arts Center, 39 Main Street, Montpelier. Ticket prices range from $10 to $25. For further info call 802-229-0492 or visit www.LostNationTheater.org .
As Henry would say, Once more unto the breach, my friends And now the ball is in your court.