Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
Originally aired on KSDS-FM
January 13, 2012
Greetings. My name is Richard. I’m a fighter, and I’m mad as hell. My father’s having an affair with my fiancée. I must confess, I think I’m in love with her brother. But that’s another story. My dad has kept my mom under lock and key for ten years, because she and I rebelled against him. My younger brothers are hateful – one’s a scheming conniver and the other’s a pimply, pea-brained brat. My father’s threatened to disinherit us all. And we’ve threatened to kill him. Oh well, as my mother says, “What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?”
Thank you, Richard the Lionheart . And welcome to Christmas with the Platagenets . Game on. Pretty high stakes in this wicked 6-way contest of treachery and deceitful deal-making. Winner takes all: the crown and the vast kingdom of Henry II of England.
This is the world of “The Lion in Winter ,” James Goldman’s 1966 luscious historical fiction, set in the winter of 1183. You might remember the acclaimed 1968 film, with Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn clawing each other’s eyes out as megalomaniacal Henry and his she-wolf of a wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. The characters are real; the situation, not so much. But Goldman has a field-day with the machinations – and so will you. The play is whip-smart and frequently funny.
These may be 700-year old battles royal, but they sure seem familiar, rife with jealousy, sibling rivalry and infidelity – writ very large. Everyone is hellbent on power and revenge, but in the rare quiet moments, each also craves love and affection, in very short supply in this vile, vituperative clan.
Despite the horrors they try to inflict on each other, the King and Queen are still deeply connected and strikingly well matched. They obviously take delight in the Machiavellian power-plays, though they seem genuinely appalled by their despicable spawn.
As part of its 30th anniversary, North Coast Repertory Theatre is bringing back the show that helped inaugurate its first season. Under the direction of Andy Barnicle , the production is sheer delight, fast-paced and filled with charismatic scenery-chewing, as a crackerjack cast nails the 12th century’s most deliciously vicious family.
Mark Pinter and Kandis Chappell are delectably paired as Henry and Eleanor. And, as their monstrous sons, Richard Baird, Jason Maddy and Kyle Roche carve out juicy, if contemptible characters. The icing on this poisonous confection is provided by the young pawn in the game, Princess Alais of France, a thankless role nicely played by Alexandra Grossi , and her devious half-brother, Phillip, the King of France, shrewdly portrayed by Kyle Sorrell.
The production values are aptly spare – it is the 12th century, after all. Here, it’s all in the words, words, words – aggressively witty and brutally irresistible.
“The Lion in Winter” has already been extended – through February 5 – at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.
©2012 PAT LAUNER