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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 25, 2003

The Bard meets '50s shirts and a ninja

By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Advertiser Drama Critic

 •  'Henry IV, Part One'

Where: Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College

When: 8 p.m., Friday; 4 p.m., Saturday; 8 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Aug. 2; and 4 p.m., Aug. 3

Tickets: $16 general, $14 seniors and military, $8 students; $36 for season tickets to all three plays

Information: 235-7433, etickethawaii.com

"Henry IV, Part I" has not been performed on O'ahu in decades. The marathon production directed by Rkevin Doyle and newly entered into the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival repertoire appears to be trying to make up for the lack.

The show runs over three hours with a second act that doesn't get started until 9:45 p.m. This is simply too long for a contemporary audience.

But if you can resist the temptation to escape at intermission, there are some things in the second act that make drinking caffeine worthwhile.

The central figures are Prince Hal, son to Henry IV, who has rebelled against his princely duties and taken up with bad company. His worst influence is Sir John Falstaff, a drunken braggart and coward.

Threatening this idyll is young Hotspur, the primary figure in a developing civil war.

In Act I, Jeremy Pippen as Prince Hal, carefully attired in mildly punkish black leather, hangs out in pubs with Aitofele Steele — who plays Falstaff as a big and blubbery beached walrus. Scot Davis rages in the wings as an intense Hotspur.

Act I simply meanders for an hour and a half. Tempo doesn't begin to build until Act II, when Prince Hal gives up his philandering to assume his responsibilities on the battlefield.

Director Doyle caps off the action in Act II with a prolonged and bizarre series of short battle scenes featuring a masked ninja figure, a raging Scotsman, bagpipe music, and Chinese theater combat choreographed by Nicholas Logue.

Granted, up until then the action hasn't been purely Elizabethan. Most characters are costumed in 1950s American sport shirts, with an occasional crown or robe added for regal presence. But when wooden swords and frozen attitudes are backed up by wailing bagpipes, we get the unsettling feeling that we're not in Stratford-Upon-Avon any more.

Act II also offers Mathias Maas in two extreme characterizations; as Glendower, a freakish rebel in a wizard robe and later as the Douglas, whose black anklets, exaggerated Scottish burr, and shameless mugging severely damage most of the scenes in which he appears.

In Act Two we also get Regina Ewing as a perky Hostess Quickly, an unnamed woman with a lovely singing voice as Lady Mortimer, and Dawe Glover as Sir Walter Blunt, who doesn't seem to be speaking English at all.

One begins to suspect that director Doyle may have simply gotten bored with the script and decided to drop in snippets from "Saturday Night Live."

Davis' Hotspur turns out to be the last character standing with any traditional integrity still intact. At least, that is, until he is slashed by a wooden sword and his dead body manhandled across the stage by an enterprising Falstaff.