Gannon University’s Schuster Theatre is the venue for the upcoming Shakespearean history “Henry IV.”
The odds of seeing a Shakespearean performance at Gannon are pretty high considering we have Shakespeare Summer nights during the summer, the Cambridge American Shakespeare Tour that comes annually – this year they performed Antony and Cleopatra and now Gannon students are preparing to present the second of four of Shakespeare’s history plays.
The histories of two families are at the center of this presentation, which will debut Thursday Nov. 29. They are meeting just after the underhanded murder of Richard II.
There is a tremendous amount of guilt on the part of Henry and he ends up mistreating the earls of Northumberland and Worchester along with the Percy family.
A wonderful bar scene juxtaposes the chaos that is in Henry’s interior life and the outer environment of the King’s doings. Sir John Falstaff (Nick Kikola) portrays the fat old guy, robust and comedic as he is. His zestfulness actually magnetizes the prince (Luis Pontillo), who is born in a serious and stiff world.
The opening of the play has King Henry IV (Nick Emanuel) upset with Hotspur (Conor Grey) for snubbing the king and neglecting a major part of his prisoners that have been bagged in a recent brawl against the Scots at Holmdon, or so he believes.
Rude and loathsome Henry queries the allegiance of Mortimer and Percy with slates and scolds the two with dictatorial and authoritative slights.
Ballyhoo and tomfoolery erupts when the son of Henry Bolinbroke, Hal, takes on the life of the prodigal son and unites in a chummy relationship involving spirits. Hal pokes fun at his degenerate friend who delights the plot to commit robbery and terrify the Falstaff flunkies.
Drunken nights at saloons bring about cowards and lowlifes who want to be heroes. A war sends a son to battle. His daddy is supposed to be the leader of the pack but he has a tummy ache and calls in sick resulting in the killing of his son.
Paula Barrett, the director of “Henry IV,” has chosen to place this 15th century play in a modern day insane asylum to get the focus of the insanity that war brings with it. The costumes are hospital gowns and the stage set is very basic with minimal lighting changes.
The theme shows the craziness of the people involved, who are prisoners in the institution, prisoners to themselves, Barrett said. The institution reflects the confined thought and war that keeps them prisoners.
Barrett said the cast continues to improve on the relationships between characters and rehearsals have been quite interesting as each actor finds and improves on his or her character choices.
One monumental feat is to condense two plays – Henry IV parts 1 and 2 – and keep the story accurate while being mindful of audience expectations. The latter presents the most difficulty when it is necessary to edit the original script.
Barrett has acted professionally herself and is no stranger to directing as she has been a constant strength in the many performances at Gannon.
The main stage performance of “Henry IV” is set to open on Nov. 29 and run through Dec. 1 and again Dec. 6 through Dec. 8 at the Gannon University Schuster Theatre. Admission is free to Gannon students. To reserve tickets, call the box office at 871-7494.