"King John" Shakespeare

Outdoors in the Adams Shakespearean Theater at The Utah Shakespeaean Festival, "King John" is a riveting drama about power and greed. It's a very traditional production, which I love, with elegant and colorful period costumes. The theme of the play is set early on when Philip Falconbridge renounces the claim he has on the land of his late father in favor of his younger brother, who claims that Philip is only his half brother. King John and his mother Elinor think he looks like John's oldest brother Richard the Lion Heart. Philip is specifically promised nothing, however, but decides to give up his claim to the land, to be poor, and of noble heritage. They rename him Richard and Plantaganet in honor of his father whose parentage is later confirmed by his mother, to whom he gives great honor for it. I have always missed this in reading this play, but this sequence is the entire kernel of "King John." After this, nobody gets anything until they first renounce something that is very dear to them. Conan McCarty's Philip is one of the noblest characters in the play. When he gets into his verbal jousting with Limoges, it's because he had killed The Lion Heart, and wears a lion skin with the head on his shoulder. After they go to war, he kills Limoges and enters with his head and the skin he wore. Jeannie Naughton's Constance is very passionate in staking her claim for her son Arthur's right to the throne over John. When everything is worked out with France, however Arthur, and by extension Constance, is given Angiers. Arthur says take it, but she wants more. Arthur is ultimately taken prisoner, however, and Constance, left with nothing, goes mad and dies. Louis, The Dauphin, makes war against England, with the encouragement of Pandulph, the Pope's Legate. He is in a position to crush John, when John makes peace with Pandulph. He tells The Dauphin to make peace with John, but young Marc O'Donnell, in a haughty display, refuses and says he has no need of the Pope, and is going to conquer England. Next his supply ship wrecks, the English nobles who are fighting for him learn that he is going to betray them, and he's run out of England. Sheridan Crist's King John is absolutely riveting. When we first meet him, he comports himself entirely like a King. He's a King in his carriage, the look in his eye as he sits on his throne, and in every fiber of his being. When it looks like war against France, King John is the strongest sword, and in peace he leads with a strong, firm hand. He makes the deal to carve up his holdings to give France some, Arthur and Constance a little, himself most, but the Pope nothing. The Pope's Legate then fans the flames. John, after capturing Arthur, looks powerful, but as Pandulph eggs on The Dauphin, John is in a raving frenzy over what to do about Arthur. Finally, after he learns that Arthur has been executed, but then learns that Hubert, in reality didn't do it, he sinks to screaming gibberish. He finally renounces his crown to Pandulph, finds his inner peace, and ultimately gets he crown back. He has to renounce it, though to win it, and recover his sanity. R. Dustin Harding is a tremendous Arthur. He's childish while in France, but still comports himslef as a royal child. In the prison scene he enters through a trap door in the floor. He plays with the irons in the fire pit, then when the executioners sieze him and try to tie him down, he squirms and clutches Hubert and pleads with him for protection. He finally makes the jump from the balcony to his death. The Adams Theater is fairly small and designed more as a playhouse, then an amphitheater with a balcony and facade to hold the sound in. The intimacy adds immediacy to the performance, as the actors spill out into the audience. You may have a troop of French soldiers, in full battle dress with swords drawn menacingly, standing right next to you. This outstanding production of Shakespeare's "King John" continues, along with "The Taming of the Shrew" and "All's Well That Ends Well" outdoors at The Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City, through September 5, 1998. Noel Coward's "Relative Values" plays in the Randall Theater.

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