Off-Broadway Theater Review: HENRY IV, PART 1 (The Pearl Theatre Company)

by Sarah Taylor Ellis on March 6, 2013

in Theater-New York

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THE PRINCE OF PEARL

Through ribald jokes and fiery speeches, spit flies during The Pearl’s solid and satisfying production of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1.

The second part in a tetralogy of history plays (encompassing Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V), Henry IV is a work of epic proportion, well suited as The Pearl’s inaugural production in their admirable new performing venue on 42nd Street.

Sraha Taylor Ellis' Off-Broadway Stage and Cinema review of Pearl Theatres "Henry IV, Part 1."

In fact, the standout element of the production may be Daniel Zimmerman’s versatile set design for the expansive new space. A large map of Britain hangs stage right, framed by a rich burgundy wall; barrels of wine and bottles of liquor haphazardly clutter the barroom occupying stage left. This set physicalizes not only the divide between the stately monarchy and the carousing lower classes, but also Prince Hal’s divided allegiance between preparing to take the throne and indulging in drunken, youthful adventures. With Davis McCallum’s fluid direction, the drama’s personal and political conflicts play out on an unfinished wooden platform center stage.

Sraha Taylor Ellis' Off-Broadway Stage and Cinema review of Pearl Theatres "Henry IV, Part 1."

McCallum hones in on the heart of the play with a tight ensemble of only twelve actors. John Brummer’s Prince Hal is a brash young man, more at home playing jokes in the public house with (and on) his rotund companion Falstaff (Dan Daily) than ruling alongside his stately father King Henry IV (Bradford Cover).

While the company of actors offers up adequate performances, Daily lacks some of Falstaff’s potential scene-stealing charm, and Cover’s king comes across a bit too stilled and majestic. Shawn Fagan’s Hotspur also plays every scene too hot; his commanding voice was even strained on the night I saw the play.

Sraha Taylor Ellis' Off-Broadway Stage and Cinema review of Pearl Theatres "Henry IV, Part 1."

Although performances can be somewhat one note, the storytelling is clear. By time for battle, the sword fights (staged by Rod Kinter) are dynamic and action-packed, and a noticeable chill passes through the audience when the maturing Prince Hal confronts the atrocities of war and the reality of death.

This production of Henry IV, Part 1 may be somewhat unremarkable, but it is certainly reliable: a solid evening’s entertainment and a promising step for The Pearl as it embarks on the next stage in its development.

Sraha Taylor Ellis' Off-Broadway Stage and Cinema review of Pearl Theatres "Henry IV, Part 1."

photos by Al Foote III

Henry IV, Part 1
The Pearl Theatre Company
555 West 42nd Street (formerly occupied by Signature Theatre)
scheduled to end on March 17, 2013
for tickets, call 212-598-9802 or visit Pearl Theatre

Sraha Taylor Ellis' Off-Broadway Stage and Cinema review of Pearl Theatres "Henry IV, Part 1."

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