The Lion in Winter

The Little Theater on the Square

Well, this was our second visit to the Little Theater this year, and for a play I didn't really know anything about. All I knew was that it was set in Medieval times, and that Katherine Hepburn was in the film version. But, as it turned out, that didn't matter, because it was a fine show anyway -- kind of a like As The Kingdom Turns, or All My ungrateful Children.

The characters are King Henry II of England, his sons Richard Lionheart (of Robin Hood fame), John (also of Robin Hood fame), and Geoffrey, his wife Eleanor, Henry's mistress Alais, and her brother King Philip of France. The story takes place at the family castle in Chinon, France during Christmas, 1183. Henry (one of England's greatest kings) wants to name his son John as his successor, Eleanor (one of Europe's most powerful women) favors the elder son Richard for the job. Alais doesn't want either of them, because she's required to marry the one who next becomes king, and as she's -- ahem -- already being Kinged on a regular basis, she isn't interested in Richard or John. Philip is merely interested in whatever will get the English out of France, and he's looking for a deal that will accomplish that. Geoffrey is just unbelievable annoyed at being left out of the entire thing. There are all sorts of plots and schemes being plotted and schemed, with alliances being made, broken, remade (including one that I'm pretty sure wasn't in Kate Hepburns movie), and finally end up in a dramatic confrontation in the castle dungeon. All in all a very entertaining story.

If you haven't guessed by now, I was quite impressed with this production (particularly the line 'Of course he has a knife, we all have knives, this is the 11 hundreds and we're barbarians'). I think the Little Theater is just better suited for smaller productions like this -- and it shows in productions like this and I Do I Do from last year. The set designer did a wonderful job again, making the most out of the small space available to them -- 2 of the 5 walls of the set could be moved, changing a room into a hall, and with the addition of some stairs, the dungeon. The costumes were reasonably authentic, and the lighting was effective -- but the real credit for the success goes to the actors. Once again, Michael Haws (the resident 'elder statesman' as it were) proved that his performance in Sound of Music was just a bad hair day -- his Henry was as crotchety and cantankerous as you would expect from an aging king, and Holly Stover's Eleanor was perfectly matched as his foil. Kenneth Paul's Richard bore a startling resemblance to a young Robert Goulet playing in Camelot, and Eddie Pendergraft's John was filled with the middle ages equivalence of teen angst. And while I'm not going to drag out the rest of the cast, they too did a fine job in this very excellent production. You have until the 16th -- better get your tickets soon.....