Unto That Breach Already, With Regular TV Updates

The New York Times

A straightforward presentation of “Henry V” lurks just below the surface of “Into the Hazard [Henry 5],” Jessica Bauman’s modern-dress adaptation of Shakespeare’s play about war and the seductions of power. Ms. Bauman, who also directed, has cut some text, rearranged bits and added a television monitor. But strip away that monitor and restore a few soaring passages, and you would have Shakespeare’s story of King Henry leading the English into war against France.

Mostly that’s what you get: a thoughtfully directed “Henry V,” performed by six talented actors who deliver the sense of Shakespeare’s words in American cadences without losing their poetry. Ms. Bauman provides the play, a New Feet production at Walkerspace, with striking touches, as when the English soldiers Fluellen and Gower pile up, pair by pair, the boots of slain French captives; or when the actors throw buckets of dirt on the bare metal stage, ushering in the battle scenes.

Now and again the video monitor interrupts the action for a news bulletin (“Live: Constable of France — The English Are Embattled”); or a YouTube-type video; or a show like “Salut, Princesse,” in which Katharine of France learns to name her body parts in English (“de nick,” “de bilbow”). These interruptions are inoffensive and sometimes wittily done. They’re also distracting and unnecessary.

Ms. Bauman has an excellent Henry in Nick Dillenburg, who ably manages this Machiavellian character’s shifting sands: he can be bullying and capricious or charming and rousing. (Mr. Dillenburg also plays the clownish dauphin, hoodie pulled low on his forehead, lazily munching grapes.)

Ms. Bauman makes some interesting interpretive choices. She stages Henry’s wooing of Katharine (a deft Erin Moon) as something approaching a rape. And why not? He’s the conqueror come to collect his spoils.

With the videos Ms. Bauman wants us to think about how the news media affect our understanding of war and politics and to remind us of their urgency. But after all, Shakespeare himself was interested in how one medium does that: poetry, with its startling, disturbing powers of persuasion. In that sense this famously slippery play needs no contemporary add-ons. – RACHEL SALTZ

Published: June 5, 2009
“Into the Hazard”
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