Review: Shakespeare purists may flinch, but this shortened ‘Henry V’ is a rousing ride

Co-directors Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott have certainly not held back in their bold staging of “Henry V” at A Noise Within, beginning with a truncated adaptation by Geoff that runs just a tad over two hours and takes certain liberties with the text.

Shakespeare purists might balk at the omissions, but if you’re not a Shakespearean stickler, you may well find that this “Henry” is a breathless theatrical joy ride full of thrills, chills and spills (of blood, naturally).

As the action opens, Henry V (an authoritative Rafael Goldstein, the linchpin of the production) has just ascended to power and must assert his supremacy over a divided nation that’s still rankled by his father’s usurpation of the throne. Henry’s dissolute youth tells against him, but a pointed insult from the French Dauphin (Kasey Mahaffy) cements Henry’s resolve to invade France and reconquer the lands he considers his by right.

Of course, from there, the play charts Henry’s rise to glorious manhood and royal supremacy, culminating with the magnificent St. Crispin’s Day speech, a call to arms that, in Goldstein’s stirring delivery, raises goosebumps.

Erika Soto as Boy, left, Jeremy Rabb as Bardolph (lying down), Deborah Strang as Mistress Quickly, Frederick Stuart as Pistol and Kasey Mahaffy as Nym.
(Craig Schwartz)

Frederick Stuart is particularly fine as the French King Charles VI. Erika Soto is an ideal gamine as Katherine, the French princess whom Henry woos and wins. And Mahaffy strikes just the right note of effete hubris as the Dauphin.

Among the design elements, Robert Oriol’s sound and original music are standouts.

Frederica Nascimento’s set, however, is a mixed blessing, at least initially, as the performers labor up and down daunting steps apparently designed for giants. (That unit, fortunately, later breaks apart into components that serve the action well.)

Combat sequences by fight choreographer Kenneth R. Merckx Jr., assisted by co-fight choreographers Marc LeClerc and Collin Bressie, are inspired — rousing battles that fill the stage with tumult and turmoil.

Rodriguez-Elliott and Elliott are intrepid vandals in the high church of Shakespeare. They may have spray-painted out a few passages, but they have kept the meaning intact in a richly articulate production that never flags in energy or style.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

‘Henry V’

Where: A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena

When: In repertory (see website for schedule); ends April 6

Tickets: From $25

Information: (626) 356-3100,

Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

The “Henry V” ensemble in A Noise Within’s new production.
(Craig Schwartz)

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