“Oh for a muse of fire.” Reminiscent of Homer’s Iliad, so begins “Henry V” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As directed by Rosa Joshi, this compelling and inventively stylized production is a fine example of ensemble work.
Twelve actors play roughly four roles each, making instant costume changes by folding away the front emblem on their tunics.
Shakespeare has provided us with a fascinating coming of age tale, and the director keeps the action sharp and enthralling.
Daniel Jose Molina is a marvel as the newly crowned king of England. No longer the boisterous Prince Hal of Henry IV, his vain curls are now shorn for going to battle against the French, and he has found religion. Urged by his crafty bishops, he believes the French crown is rightly his.
Molina’s Henry is groping his way toward mature kingship, and the steps are arduous. Old friendships must be thrown off and he must learn when to forgive, when to be brutal, and how to reach longterm goals. It’s an emotional journey and Molina has no qualms about allowing tears to flow.
During the gripping scenes before the well remembered Battle of Agincourt, Henry ignites his soldiers with the brilliant “band of brothers” speech, as thrilling today as it must have been in Shakespeare’s time.
Then, after the bloody battle, with each death represented by a length of scarlet cloth, comes the lightness of romance. Henry woos the French princess for his bride in one of the most charming and humorous love scenes ever written.
This might seem to be a happy ending, but the chorus chillingly reminds us that happy endings for most British monarchs are rare. And, as in the Iliad, the curses continue for generations.
This is Dorothy Velasco with KLCC’s Ashland Theater Review.