Henry V

These 30+ actors were impressive in earlier roles. But how good are they when it comes to Shakespeare?

By Andrew Andrews

Taylor Watson Seupel stars as Henry V in CenterStage Productions’ rendition of Shakespeare’s play, directed by Joe Eriole at The CENTER for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck. Original photos by Rachel Karashay.

Henry V wants to assert his claim to the Kingdom of France, so he sends a message to Charles IV demanding that the latter forfeit the throne.

After Charles’s son responds to the threat with a gift of tennis balls meant to insult Henry’s youth and vanity, Henry leads his troops across the English Channel to siege the port of Harfleur.

Although successful, Henry’s soldiers are left in terrible shape, so Henry decides to head to Calais instead of Paris, with the powerful French army hot on their tails, leading to the Battle of Agincourt and its surprising underdog outcome.

The fourth and final play in a series by William Shakespeare about the Hundred Years’ War, Henry V is presented as the first offering in this year’s Sam Scripps Shakespeare Festival at The CENTER for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck.

The cast of the first play in this year’s Sam Scripps Shakespeare Festival is the largest we’ve seen at a production since before the pandemic; only about two-thirds of the actors appear in this photo.

There are certain plays by William Shakespeare that are done to death: Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream all come to mind.

On the one hand, it’s refreshing when a producer decides to include a story that isn’t an easy crowd-pleaser; on the other hand, there are reasons why so many companies like to stick with the tried-and-true.

Bringing Henry V to the stage is no simple matter: featuring the largest cast we’ve seen since before the pandemic, Henry V includes more than two dozen actors and, in this case, aspiring actors. Many of those on stage showed little-to-no-experience reciting Shakespeare, with some apparently memorizing the sound of their lines without contemplating what the words actually mean, as if Elizabethan English were a foreign language to be reproduced phonetically. Others on stage—even those with relatively minor roles—failed to memorize their lines at all.

There are a lot of familiar names in this cast, and we saw quite a few faces who impressed us very much in recent productions at The CENTER and on other area stages. But iambic pentameter is a troublesome beast, and in this case, even those actors who have wowed us in past performances just didn’t spark the same reaction this time around.

It’s all-too-easy to compare the king’s claims of sovereignty and the atrocities of war to the current situation in Ukraine, so it’s no surprise that CenterStage Productions would choose to present this play at such a fitting moment.

It’s just that—when it comes to compelling theatre—sadly, timing isn’t everything.

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Andrew Andrews attended Henry V at The Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck on Friday, March 25, 2022 @ 8:00pm to write this review.