The Lion In Winter
By James Goldman
Directed by Cynthia White
Starring Mark Brotherton and Kate Ingram
Sure, it’s GOOD to be king, but if you don’t leave an eternal Dynasty, well, you might as well just go milk cows. Henry II (Brotheron) had that dream: make the newly acquired English lands an eternal kingdom. His resources include the Aquitaine, which is basically the middle of France from the English Channel to the Pyrenees Mountain, his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Ingram) and three sons. Those sons are stereotypes if ever they crossed the boards: Richard (Daniel Romano) is a military tough guy with a lavender streak a mile wide, Geoffrey (Terrance Lee) is the sneaky Machiavellian one, and John (Shannon Burke) the favorite who is clearly incapable of arranging a urination contest in the Guinness factory. Off on the side Eleanor emits snarky comments and tries half-heartedly to influence the future, but honestly, when you’re stuck in a tower, the future isn’t bupkas. Henry is a consummate manipulator; if only his sons would sit down and agree to anything.
Ah, if only today’s politicians were as focused! Brotherton and Ingram fought like they’d been married for 40 years (They may have worked together for that long, that’s almost as useful.) Their three sons all felt a bit over the top: Romano seemed to be auditioning for a Sword and sandals epic, and his sword was never far from his hand. Lee came off as calculating to the point you could never trust him in an alliance, and young John bounced off the walls while raging against the adults. The French king Philip (Bobby Wojciechowski) stood tall and elegant, but seemed no match for this British family feud.
There’s plenty of action here, and plenty of fun lines: When Henry warns the French princess Alais (Kaley Pharr) has a knife, Eleanor implores: “Dear, We ALL have knives here!” This play is set just before the Shakespearean cycle – Bouncy John does eventually become king, as well as the subject of the Bard’s least produced play. It’s fast paced, it’s clear who is doing what to whom, and the language is plenty modern. It’s also set on a dark and moody set with just enough Christmas stuff up front to justify it as a holiday show if required. Henry wanted to create a dynasty, always a difficult task. He did create a country, and his family hung on for 300 years which isn’t all that bad given the rough material he had to work with. This feels like a Shakespeare piece but is infinitely more accessible, and it mixes history with fun and just the right amount of romance.
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