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Henry V on Sansom Street

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Henry The Fifth
Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre
Classical Academy
August 4-15, 2010

The English are better at their history than we are. They have Shakespeare to thank for making leaders human. If you have trouble keeping the Henry Plays Straight, you may want to try Henry Fifth at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre through Sunday. The Classical Academy run by the Theatre is doing a nice job with a complicated play. The academy is summer session for emerging theatre professionals. The performances at 21st and Sansom are free; best to call ahead for tickets or email.

Director Aaron Cromie uses the conceit of a classroom and it works. A teacher takes the role of Chorus. Fazeeh Fazeehpour’s simple classroom design becomes tavern, battlefield, and court. It is hard to keep the nine actors straight, in their school uniforms and backpacks since most of the cast takes multiple characters.

Fortunately Michael Gregory takes only the role of King Harry, or Henry the Fifth, who learns to battle royal insults from France before his ultimate great victory at Agincourt.

Gregory, who trained at the Hartt School, in Hartford, brings many colors to the role, he is at his strongest showing the pulls upon the crown; the qualms that rarely mean a good night’s sleep in a soliloquy that’s quite persuasive.
Nick Martorelli functions as the chorus.

Victoria Bonito is an engaging Lord Exeter, amusing Lady Katherine’s maid. Bethany Ditnes distinguishes her roles as Katherine and Montjoy. Amanda Bernhardt, Meredith Mitchell, Eric Wunsch, B.K Elam, Shaun Fury, complete assignments both serious and comic.

The confusions as to whom plays whom will not be unraveled until the conclusion of the second half but the Classical Acting Academy’s delivery of Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter is well done. Henry V on Sansom Street is not as much theater to watch as theater to listen to. Bravo to text coaches J. J. Van Name and John Peakes; bravo Aaron Cromie. The spoken lines are not self-conscious but they don’t lose the poetry or the music.

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Written by Lesley Valdes

August 9, 2010 at 3:07 am

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