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Henry VI

  • Theater, Shakespeare
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Theater review by Adam Feldman

The National Asian American Theatre Company (NAATCO) gives Shakespeare's early Henry VI trilogy a rare airing in this stylishly designed, tautly epic two-part production, adapted and directed by Stephen Brown-Fried. The first half concerns the loss of England's foreign territories in the 15th century; the second chronicles the internal bleeding engendered by the War of the Roses, as various factions of Lancasters and Yorks agitate for or against the pious king (played with touching restraint by Jon Norman Schneider), eventually setting the stage for the Yorkist implosion in the subsequent Richard III.

Even when edited down substantially, as here, the plays are a challenge: 50 years of 15th-century history stuffed into nearly six hours, with shifting rosters of infighting aristocrats who wear white and red roses like gang colors. (The carnage is rendered elegantly on a red traverse stage strewn with thin black strips suggesting ashes.) While the verse is clearly spoken, there are inevitable confusions: Most of the actors play many roles, many of the men are played by women, and several of the characters have the same names. But NAATCO approaches the piece with invention and economy, enacting battle scenes with gusto and treating even the vilest plotters with some degree of sympathy. A little research in advance will help you keep track as the action and the heads keep rolling.

A.R.T./New York Theatres (Off Broadway). By William Shakespeare. Directed by Stephen Brown-Fried. With ensemble cast. Running times: Part I, 3hrs with one intermission; Part II, 2hrs 45mins with one intermission. 

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman


Event website:
$45 per part
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