It’s Christmas, 1183, in the frigid castle at Chinon. Snow drifts down in the background and Queen Eleanor has recently arrived, released for the …
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It’s Christmas, 1183, in the frigid castle at Chinon. Snow
drifts down in the background and Queen Eleanor has recently
arrived, released for the holidays from 10 years of imprisonment by
her husband, King Henry II. He is 50 and she is 61 — both well past
middle age in that period, when many people died before reaching
The lion and lioness remain fierce, with claws frequently
extended as they continue a longstanding love/hate relationship,
bickering about which of their sons should succeed Henry as king:
Richard the Lionhearted, favored by his mother; Geoffrey, favored
by neither; or young whining John, preferred by Henry.
Directing this American classic is, appropriately, Philip Sneed,
director of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, who has worked with
each actor to develop a distinct persona in a tale of greed,
manipulation and bluster. The dialogue is absolutely delicious and
every word is crisp and clear. While the thoughts often tend to be
bloody, the play is in every sense a comedy. One can’t help but
think the Bard would have loved it!
John Arp roars, purrs and usually gets his way as Henry II, who
did indeed fight his way to become England’s king, while marrying
the world’s most eligible woman, Eleanor of Aquitaine, played
wonderfully by Rachel Fowler. Eleanor had been married to King
Louis of France and was powerful, ruthless and brainy.
The couple’s three living sons are rivals for the crown and for
the favor of both parents, who admit at one point that they don’t
much care for any of the boys. Geoffrey Kent plays conflicted
Richard Lionheart, the oldest; Josh Robinson is convincingly sleazy
as the middle son; and Jake Walker, as young John behaves much like
a 21st century teenager.
The dysfunctional Plantaganet family reigned — 800 years ago,
with a protest from mother about “can’t we just love each other?”
and a snippy answer from father about how “every family has its ups
Also in the picture: young king Philip of France (Benjamin
Bonenfant), who is learning quickly how to behave like a king and
his half sister Alais, who had been sent to Henry’s court at age 8
as a future bride for Richard. However, Henry has taken a fancy to
her and she has been one of his many mistresses. She too learns how
to manipulate and play games as she remains in this company.
One can’t help but think about today’s statesmanship, albeit
without the elegant costumes created for this production by Chris
Campbell, whose attention to detail is apparent on every sleeve and
Brian Mallgrave’s set, with cold, gray stone walls, backed by a
winter sky works for multiple scenes with only simple prop changes
(done by a crew in period costume).
Background music, designed by Steve Stevens included early
carols and other early tunes, while the lighting worked with the
candlelight. The production magic is as usual, nearly perfect at
the Arvada Center, as is the quality of performance. It’s a “don’t
If you go:
“The Lion in Winter” by James Goldman plays through Feb. 20 at
the Arvada Center Black Box Theatre, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd. See
performance times and ticket prices. 720-898-7200.
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