‘Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears the Crown’: The Henry Project

‘Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears the Crown’: The Henry Project

Vortex 40th Season Play Passionate, Loyal

By Ashley Kurtz

The Vortex Theatre is in its 40th season, and The Henry Project could not be a better way to introduce audiences to one of Shakespeare’s historical plays.

Set early in the 15th century, the play is a tense one that portrays the all-too-familiar story of a son, Henry, Prince of Wales; and his father, King Henry IV. The Prince, portrayed by Quinn Mander, and his father, played by Paul Ford, are both excellent in their display of a tense and often strained relationship.

Along with the outstanding performances of the two Henrys, a bright star among them is the role of Harry Percy, nicknamed ‘Hotspur,’ played by Martin Andrews. Percy provides a flaming, angry opponent to the rebellious and stubborn, yet intelligent Prince. The two actors hold a commanding presence on the stage, and, along with the tortured King Henry IV, who is plagued by his conscious murder of his predecessor, give the play an uneasy air.

The darker side of the play is contrasted by the drunk, fat old man, Sir John Falstaff. Played by Charles Fisher, he is an excellent source of comic relief and often merrily pokes at the Prince while acting as a type of fatherly figure to him.

Intentionally staged in a ‘theater-in-the-round’ format – with the stage surrounded entirely by the audience – the play provides an intimate, almost voyeuristic look into the father-son dynamic while also giving the audience a very personal performance. The monologues are made more effective by the actors’ ability to pull the audience in so that they truly care about the events before them.

The costumes are also brilliant – simple, but effective, like the staging. There is very little set, but this works for the show, giving it the flexibility that it needs to transform from a king’s chambers to a pub in a split second.

Because of this intimacy, this production of Henry IV is an excellent one to bring first-timers to. As a first-timer myself, this play seemed to be put on with so much passion for the text and loyalty to The Bard himself that it was completely enjoyable.

The Henry Project, which includes Henry IV and Henry V, runs through Dec. 4.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.