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Henry IV

Shakespeare Festival Saint Louis, 2014

Chuck Lavazzi – OnStL.com

If, like the dormouse in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you think that English history is the driest thing you know, then you haven’t seen it dramatized by Shakespeare and you certainly haven’t seen it performed with the vitality Shakespeare Festival St. Louis is bringing to Henry IV right now in Forest Park.

A combination of scenes from two plays—Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2Henry IV is the first part the sprawling, bawling, bawdy, and violent "coming of age" story of young Prince Hal, oldest son of King Henry IV (the second part takes up Henry V, which the festival performs in rotating rep with Henry IV). Hal’s character arc takes him from the "party hearty" scofflaw and companion of Falstaff to the noble King Henry V, for whom Shakespeare wrote one of his most inspiring and poetic soliloquies: the famous "St. Crispin’s Day" speech to the English troops on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt.

The Festival’s Henry IV is a genuine “ripping yarn,” with all the passion, pathos, intrigue, poetry of Shakespeare’s sharply-drawn characters brought to vibrant, compelling life on the outdoor stage just north of the Art Museum in Forest Park.  The show runs nearly three hours but feels much shorter thanks to Tim Ocel’s crisp, well-paced direction and first-rate performances. You can see it for free if you bring your own chairs or blankets, but personally I think the better sight lines and extra comfort that come with forking over $20 for a reserved seat are worth it.

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