Thursday, August 16, 2012


It's wine, women and song for Richard Ziman's Falstaff
Comedy and kingship rule in SSC's funny, moving 'Henry IV Part 2'

Sir John Falstaff rides again in Henry IV Part 2, the third production in Shakespeare Santa Cruz's 2012 summer season. The sequel to last year's popular Henry IV Part 1, returning director Scott Wentworth's production of H4P2 offers plenty of drama—death and loss, kingship, statecraft, rebellion, family dynamics, and the passing of the crown from one generation to the next, along with a resonant meditation on aging that runs throughout the play.

But the centerpiece is the bawdy comedy and ignoble scheming of Falstaff, and Richard Ziman's robust, gargantuan performance in the role. Extravagantly dressed by costumer B.Modern in a variety of hilariously spangled and braided military outfits and luxurious frock coats, Ziman fills the cavernous Festival Glen with this lusty, bragging, blustery, old rogue and his appetites—for food, wine, and women, for fleecing his friends in pursuit of all of the above, for life itself.

Repeating in the role from last year, Ziman has a stand-up comedian's knack for connecting with the crowd, delighting himself (and us) with his own merriment; his famous speech in praise of sack (wine) is a bravura showstopper, and yet the fleeting moments when he pauses to ponder the inevitability of aging and what lies beyond are just as compelling.
Charles Pasternak as Hal, the Prince who would be King

H4P2 is really less a sequel than a second act between the battles, roistering and political maneuvering of Henry IV Part 1 and the triumphant kingship of Prince Hal in Henry V (the final play in the "Henriad" cycle, coming to SSC in 2013).

The old king is dying, and Prince Hal (the excellent Charles Pasternak) is scarcely to be seen. Which leaves much of the play to Falstaff, contemplating the favoritism and life of ease he expects once Hal, his former protégé, gains the throne.

But for all the frivolity—and there's plenty of it—the play reaches its powerful and very moving climax in the final encounter between old Henry (V Craig Heidenreich) and Prince Hal. Each has much to regret and each needs absolution from the other, and between the textured emotions and unexpected physical business with which the actors and Wentworth navigate Shakespeare's poetry, the scene is a knockout. Heidenreich's mercurial voice is one of the chief assets of this production, and Pasternak is such a dynamic presence, the play feels a bit empty when he's not around. (Read more)

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