A Man For All Seasons
By Robert Bolt
Directed by David
Starring John DiDonna, Mark Edward smith, Brendon Rogers
Bay Street Theatre, Eustis Florida
They say “stubbornness is its own reward”, and Sir Thomas More (DiDonna) clings to this ideal with religious zeal as he argues himself into a hard place between Duty to God and Duty to King. While God rarely offers policy updates, King Henry (Rogers) does and he just changed his mind on marriage. When Henry decides a divorce is in order, More’s concurrence would make the move more popular. More thought otherwise, and begins his descent by annoying his superior Cardinal Wolsey (Adrian LePeltier). Wolsey died before this rather private affair became common knowledge, leaving the real battle to worldly Thomas Cromwell (Smith.) He’s off to make the real stink even if it was the King who truly needed More’s notoriously pious legitimacy. When More refuses to concede, Cromwell succeeds in turning his friends against More in the name of national unity, and that was enough to cost his head.
DiDonna made a good More, academic and pious, yet no fool. His clear headed arguments and academically balding head proclaimed piety, but never that of the Pharisees proclaiming strict adherence to the letter of the law. Rather, he thought through the issues, applied fundamental principles, and arrived at logical if unpopular conclusion. It seemed as if DiDonna was thinking on his feet, and not reciting lines. Opposite him was the fastidiously unscrupulous Cromwell portrayed by an officious Smith – be glad he wasn’t auditing your taxes. I was sorry to see Wolsey die so early; his nastiness ran deeper than Cromwell’s and you could imagine him dancing a jig at the execution. There were softer players, as well. Henry was vain and preening, even under a 30 pound waist coat. The amorphous Richard Rich (Glen Howard) looked buffoonish, and you knew he saw his entire a career as a lucky mistake that was always about to be revealed. There were some women in this Manly Man’s world – stuffy wife Lady More (Barbara Blake) cooked and cleaned and looked on disapprovingly as her husband disgraced the whole family by keeping to his ideals, and their daughter Margaret (Jennifer Bonner) charmed everyone even if she did marry the waffling Lutheran William Roper (Rick Breese.) I’m sure he loved Margaret, but he needed More to keep his own head as it spun round the newest idea.
While you never doubt More’s loyalty and piety, his logic undergoes a subtle shift. At first he merely objects to a divorce justified by Catherine’s inability to produce a male heir, but later tackles a more fundamental issue about Henry usurping the Churches rights. Henry violated his oath of office as well as the Magna Charta, but no one else seems too worried about these niceties, and we end up with the fundamental question “What is an oath worth?” In medieval stories knights were always taking oaths that got them in horrible troubles, and today we make and break oaths with little thought, no longer standing in fear of an eternal wrath. There’s little question of free will vs. destiny today, but in 1535 there was no question – you have free will, but you exercise it at the risk of your immortal soul and your all too gently attached head.
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