Monday, June 8, 2009

Into the Hazard (or, Henry by Another Name)

The title Into the Hazard may be snazzier than Henry V, but the show itself is a standard production of Shakespeare's history. It's a lean & brisk two hours (and change), performed by 6 actors. Director/adaptor Jessica Bauman depicts Henry as a dirty, violent, bully who treats his subjects as cannon-fodder for his glory. Bauman offers a few bits of fine theater, like a pair of soldiers who chat while stacking empty boots after the battle. Lead Nick Dillenberg plays King Harry as a hard-boiled warrior who, in his scene with the French Princess, treats her like another plot of France soil that he's won. So far so simple.

In a bid for 21st-century relevance, Bauman cast a flatscreen TV as the play's chorus. Her videos are clever pastiches of modern televisual styles: the play's description of the English encampment, with its mellow voiceover and slow pans of still photos, burlesques a PBS documentary. Bauman would probably justify her TV as a 21st-century reflection of the play's meta-theatrical theme. And, since she seems like an intelligent director, she'd also probably say that the TV shows the disconnect between the reality of our current wars and the sanitized perspective we see in the media.

It's a sophisticated idea but it's not great theater. Having Harry deliver “Once more unto the breach” as if he's reading from a TelePrompTer is clever in concept, but it's dull to watch. Use of the TV slows the pace and distracts from the clear, smart version of Henry that's onstage. I also wish Bauman had edited the script more willfully: the subplot involving the Welsh soldier Fluellen may be part of Shakespeare's play, but it's neither funny nor relevant to her concept. This is a simple, clear production muddled by a few over-clever ideas.


Into the Hazard plays at Walkerspace thru June 20. Tickets are $15 (a steal!).
Photo: Lisa Dozier

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