Theater review by Garrett Eisler. Pearl Theatre Company. By William Shakespeare. Dir. Davis McCallum. With ensemble cast. 3hrs. One intermission.
Challenging though it may be, the two parts of Henry IV really are best performed together, either in an all-day marathon or an abridged “highlights” version. This is because the big dramatic payoff only comes at the end of the saga, when the king dies and young Prince Hal ascends to the throne as Henry V, gaining wisdom and maturity yet losing—in his rejection of his old pal Falstaff—some mirth and humanity.
While the modestly budgeted Pearl Theatre Company may not be able to amass the necessary resources for a full Henriad, one would hope for at least an especially original or vital take on the opening play. Davis McCallum’s stately but bloodless staging offers no new compelling point of view on the familiar dual plots of palace intrigue and tavern shenanigans. And as “Fat Jack” Falstaff, Dan Daily drifts through the evening’s sluggish three hours with a casual nonchalance that routinely (no pun intended) weighs things down.
These failings, unfortunately, eclipse some fine elements that otherwise would have saved the day. Daniel Zimmerman’s handsome (if underused) scenery sets a dank, medieval mood. Bradford Cover oozes gravitas as the brooding monarch; Shawn Fagan brings modern tude to Hotspur’s arrogance; and John Brummer, though hemmed in by the static staging, gives off sparks of drive and intelligence as Hal. Hotspur may go down at the end of Part 1 (Elizabethan spoiler alert!), but under a more imaginative guiding hand, I wouldn’t mind seeing Cover and Brummer in the sequel.