Theater Review: “King John”
Read More: Richmond Shakespeare
Director Jan Powell cultivates a visual feast for Richmond Shakespeare’s “King John” currently being performed at St. Catherine’s McVey Theatre. A very serious play and rarely performed, “King John” centers around John’s accession to the throne after the death of King Richard I “The Lionheart.” The King of France (played by Jeremy Gershman) is convinced that Richard I’s sister-in-law’s (playd by Jennifer Frank) son, Arthur (played by David Millman), is the rightful heir to the throne.
John (played by Thomas L. Cunningham) and his mother Elinor (played by Patricia Alli) are approached by a stranger named Philip (played by David Janosik) who they recognize as Richard I’s illegitimate son. Philip is knighted and then known as The Bastard. The Bastard becomes a close ally to John and soon a great conflict breaks out between England and France. In the hopes to unite the two countries it is proposed that Lewis the Dauphin of France (played by John Mincks) marry John’s niece Lady Blanche (played by Laurel Maughan). The peace is short lived as John is excommunicated by the Pope and France is forced to resume war.
Featuring a large ensemble cast, this production is artistic and gorgeous. Cunningham plays John well, evil and calculating and just hate-able enough. Thomas Bell plays Hubert, servant to John. Bell, for me, is the perfect Shakespearian actor as he doesn’t over extend himself or overact, and he has the ability to convey emotion perfectly with minimal affectation. David Janosik gives a strong performance as the Bastard and provides John with a source of support and companionship as his reign comes to an end.
The massive tiered set by Todd A. Schall-Vess is very impressive and is utilized expertly by the play’s large cast. Stacie Reardon Hall uses Kabuki inspired make-up to highlight the character’s emotions and to compliment the costumes by Virginia McConnell. McConnell’s costumes are a creative mix between modern and traditional, regal and military as she uses different colors and genres to delineate between England and France.
The fight choreography by Ryan Bechard is excellent as always and this time we see Bechard in the role of Figure of Human Potential as he athletically manipulates the set doing aerial stunts and using movement to highlight the emotion of the scene. I must say I can’t wait to see what else Richmond Shakespeare has in store for us this season.
“King John” is playing through October 14. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.richmondshakspeare.com
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
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