OFFBEAT: Chicago Shakespeare Theater's 'Henry VIII' by Gaines a crowning performance

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-05-10T00:00:00Z 2013-05-10T12:57:03Z OFFBEAT: Chicago Shakespeare Theater's 'Henry VIII' by Gaines a crowning performanceBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Chicago Shakespeare Theater Artistic Director Barbara Gaines directs a talented cast of gathered favorites for a fresh and innovative telling of William Shakespeare's "Henry VIII," the first professional Chicago production of the play in 400 years since its debut at Shakespeare's Globe in London.

It was during a performance of "Henry VIII" at THE Globe Theatre in 1613 that a cannon shot employed for special effects ignited the theater's thatched roof and the beams, burning the original building to the ground.

The current production, staged in CST's Courtyard Theater through June 16, features a powerful performance by New York actor Gregory Wooddell in the title role and his first time on the Chicago stage, and Christina Pumariega countering, as his temporary love turned wife Anne Boleyn. Actress Ora Jones provides one of her best portrayals yet playing the monarch's deposed Queen Katherine.

Stage wonder Mike Nussbaum, commanding the stage at age 89, plays Duke of Suffolk and is worthy of every praise. Rounding out the group is Scott Jaeck as the plotting Cardinal Wolsey.

Written in the decade following the death of Queen Elizabeth I, this play about her father, King Henry VIII, dramatizes the king's historic divorce from Katherine of Aragon and his fast-to-flame marriage to Anne Boleyn. What is so often not told, but beautifully revealed in this production, are the details of the political machine controlling both the church and England's throne, all leading up to the birth of Elizabeth I.

Wooddell has a natural ease as the forceful crown firmly secured on England's throne. From every lift of his brow to the change of a verbal tone, he is able to seize every important moment and exchange.

The staging at Chicago Shakespeare Theater never ceases to amaze me, and this production is not an exception. Scenic Designer Jim Noone provides some very simple yet effective altered atmospheres from scene to scene during the two and half hours. And Jeff Award-winning Costume Designer Mariann Verheyen has surpassed all expectations for the wardrobe displayed. Lighting Designer Anne Militello and Jeff Award-winning Composer and Sound Designer Lindsay Jones capture all the needed mood moments, while resident Jeff Award-winning Wig and Make-up Designer Melissa Veal and resident Properties Master Chelsea Meyers complete this picture perfect telling of the tale.

Tickets are $48 to $78 with special discounts available for groups of 10 or more. All patrons receive a 40 percent discount for parking in Navy Pier garages. FYI: (312) 595-5600 or

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

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

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