OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Chicago Shakespeare Theater wonderfully captures the throne of 'Henry V'

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-05-09T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Chicago Shakespeare Theater wonderfully captures the throne of 'Henry V'By Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Only in the great work of William Shakespeare's epic "Henry V," do the small details, such as tennis balls, receive such royal treatment.

This is the same rich, royal treatment given by celebrated British director Christopher Luscombe, in his Chicago debut, as he presents a rousing and action-packed stage telling of "Henry V," the play that inaugurated Chicago Shakespeare Theater in 1986. That performance was in the company's previous space, the rooftop of Lincoln Park's Red Lion Pub.

For this turn, the story gets a far more expansive landscape at the Courtyard Theater at Navy Pier now through June 15.

And yes, early on, just as told by The Bard, tennis balls abound.

Prior to leading the troops to war against France, the charismatic, young monarch, played by Harry Judge in the title role, is presented with a barrel brimming with tennis balls, a "gift of treasure" on behalf of Louis, Duke of Guyenne, the Dauphin of France, son of the French King and Queen Isabel. (The gift was a symbolic gesture of mockery. It is disputed by some historians if the gesture ever really happened.)

A mere 25-years-old, England’s King Henry, played with brilliant brow by Judge, decides to unite his divided kingdom by enforcing his claim to the French throne. What unfolds during the next two and half hours is the confrontation and the ferocity of war on the fields of Agincourt.

Actress Laura Rook has fun behind a firm smile in the role of the French princess Katherine, who faces both politics and a language barrier while enduring the changes that abound all around her.

In her CST debut, actress Sally Wingert is an entertaining sensation in her dual roles of Mistress Quickly and Alice. Larry Neumann Jr., who also does double duty as Nimm and the Duke of Orleans, holds the audience's attention with his every move and syllable. Samuel Taylor is a certain stand-out performance in this production as the the vain and confident Dauphin and Kevin Quinn earns a well deserved nod for his honest and invested characterization of a young boy immersed in the moment of tragedy.

The battle scenes are masterful and choreographed with precision. The creative team of designers are to be hailed, including Scenic Designer Kevin Depinet, Costume Designer Mariann S. Verheyen, Lighting Designer Phillip S. Rosenberg, Sound Designer Lindsay Jones and Wig and Make-up Designer Melissa Veal.

Tickets are $48–$78 with special discounts available for groups of 10 or more, as well as CST for $20 tickets available for patrons under 35. All patrons receive a 40 percent discount on guaranteed parking in Navy Pier garages. FYI: (312) 595-5600 or chicagoshakes.com

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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