In "Henry V" Folger Theatre takes the audience on a trip through history to tell the tale of King Henry V of England and his battle to claim the French throne.
As the lights dim, the story of King Henry V quickly unfolds. It is the tale of how a young king's passion and determination leads him on a campaign to conquer France.
As the story progresses, King Henry V soon learns that his enemies are not only the French, but civil turmoil, traitorous allies, and waning moral. At the play's climax, King Henry V finds himself facing both an overwhelming French army on the fields of Agincourt and a true test of his ability to lead.
This production, which features talented violin performances by actor and musician Jessica Witchger, places a dual emphasis on the imagination of the audience and the acting talent of its performers.
While the costumes are finely detailed and the stage designed to set the scene through the use of a few well-placed moving pillars, the heart of the play lies with the ability of the actors on stage to not only draw the audience in, but to also form connections with the characters that they portray.
In this production, Zach Appelman stars as the titular character of King Henry V and does so with superb skill. His presence on stage draws the audience's attention without overshadowing the other characters on stage.
His portrayal of King Henry V shows us not only the proud and ardent monarch that we expect, but also the reservations and inner thoughts of the man beneath the crown.
This dual persona is best represented in the scene in which King Henry confronts those who sought to betray him. Unaware that their duplicitous nature has been discovered, they are slowly strung along by King Henry, until their actions are brought to light.
It is in this scene that the young king's fury is measured as he confronts each traitor in turn, before ending at Lord Scroop, played by Pomme Koch. Here, Appelman's persona gracefully transitions from one of a king dealing with disloyal subjects to a man betrayed by one whom he considers a dear friend.
Although the play deals with several themes of weight, there are many instances where comedy slips its way in to lighten the atmosphere.
The characters of Nym, Bardolph, and Pistol, played by Michael John Casey, Louis Butelli and James Keegan respectively, are one example. Their antics within the first few minutes of the characters' introduction easily induced laughter from much of the audience.
Even as the play approaches its end, King Henry V engages himself in yet another daunting yet hilarious battle: an attempt to woo Katherine of France, played by Katie deBuys, whose command of the English language is as polished as the king's skills of seduction.
In short, Folger Theatre's production of "Henry V" is a masterful display of talent that does honor to William Shakespeare's work. It should not be missed.
"Henry V" continues through March 3 at Folger Theatre at 201 East Capitol Street SE, Washington DC 20003. For info or tickets, visit the Folger Theatre website.