‘Henry V’ reigns at The Gallery Players’ Park Slope theater
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!
One of the Bard’s best-loved bad boys is back in town, all grown up and leading the latest charge onto Brooklyn’s summer Shakespeare scene. Sweet Prince Hal has abandoned his wastrel ways — and his friend Falstaff, who dies of a broken heart — to fight for fair Albion’s glory at The Gallery Players’ theater in Park Slope.
“Henry V” is its sixth annual summertime production in its Players’ Shakespeare: OnStage program.
Peter Collier plays the young English monarch who against impossible odds (and through God’s grace, as he emphatically says) bests the French in the Battle of Agincourt.
His story spools out on a nearly bare stage, aptly painted blood-red. Valor, treason, the terrors of war and the forging of a fragile peace are vividly brought to life through the magic of Shakespeare’s four-century-old script and a smart, energetic cast.
The bottom line: This is good stuff, not to be missed.
Professional actors are presenting an immortal play, by turns thrilling, poignant and funny, in an intimate setting. The tickets are only $18 (or $14 for seniors, students and kids).
There were empty seats at Saturday’s show, but there shouldn’t have been. Spread the word on Facebook and Twitter. How about #JustWildAboutHarry as a hashtag?
Collier, on the whole, is a moving Harry of England (as the French call him), worthy of the loyal subjects with “lean-lank cheeks and war-torn coats” who fight for him when all seems lost.
He fully inhabits his character when he’s angry — like when he responds to an insulting gift from France’s Dauphin by thundering forth a warning that the Frenchman will be cursed when “thousands weep” over ruinous war.
King Harry’s famed pre-battle call to bravery in the face of a force five times that of England’s — “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” — is as heart-wringing as it should be.
Only occasionally does one wish he’d be a touch more regal, when his line delivery seems rushed, with a teenager’s cadences. After all, he is “the mirror of all Christian kings,” whose shape-up from pub-crawling party animal has stunned church officials, countrymen and astute adversaries like the Constable of France (ably played by Richard Busser).
Alan Brincks as the Dauphin — charismatic, self-absorbed, mistakenly gloating with French lords on the eve of battle — makes a fine foil for the English monarch.
Laura Lassy is très charmante as Princess Katharine, no mean feat since her lines are mostly in French with a little mangled English thrown in for comic effect.
Among the excellent band of brothers (and sisters), Kevin Blackwelder also deserves mention as the Welsh officer Fluellen, an odd-duck character who is endearing if played well.
By the way, director Padraic Lillis won the 2013 New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Director.
An Off-Off Broadway institution since 1967, The Gallery Players count famed Harvey Fierstein among their founding members. Their theater is at 199 14th St.
“Henry V” runs through Sunday, Aug. 3. See galleryplayers.com for dates and times.
For Prince Hal’s super-fans, there also are free readings of “Henry IV, Part One” on Saturday, July 26 and “Henry IV, Part Two” on Saturday, Aug. 2.
Ages ago, Joseph Papp and his Public Theater’s set-up in Central Park showed New Yorkers that summer and Shakespeare are a perfect match. Brooklyn has been serving up some creditable warm-weather Bard, which is a good thing since the splendid new Shakespeare-centric playhouse in the BAM Cultural District, the Theatre for a New Audience, goes dark this time of year.
Last month, New York Classical Theatre performed an al fresco “As You Like It” in Prospect Park, which was great fun, and free.
And soon, South Brooklyn Shakespeare will play “Romeo and Juliet” outdoors on Park Slope’s Fifth and Seventh avenues, also for free. Who doesn’t love “R&J”? See southbrooklynshakespeare.com for further info.
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