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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Completing the Henriad

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When Milwaukee Shakespeare closed its doors for good this past season, it left Milwaukee audiences one show shy of a complete Henriad. The theater outfit had been staging one part of Shakespeare's lengthy tetralogy each year for the past three years, but the company folded before it could stage the final part in the series, Henry V. Thanks to the efforts of other theaters in Wisconsin, audiences will have two opportunities to see the end of the series: the first, staged by Quasi Productions, opens this weekend, and the second is an outdoor production by American Players Theatre in Spring Green this August.

Henry V, concluding a series that follows the succession of British kings through the 14th and 15th centuries, finds a young, recently crowned king attempting to conquer France somewhere in the midst of the Hundred Years' War. Without Milwaukee Shakespeare's budget, Quasi's production will focus on the human drama of the story. Set and costuming will be minimal.

"The clothing is, for the most part, contemporary," says Quasi Artistic Director Tom Reed. "Everyone has a neutral base and actors add or subtract costume pieces when they change character."

Reed adds that the set will consist of three simple platforms with stairs. Despite the low budget, the brutality of the war will still be visually represented, Reed says. Through the performance of its actors, Reed hopes the production will demonstrate the mental and physical anguish of marching for days on end, only to turn around and fight in brutal hand-to-hand combat. The physical combat that takes place onstage will be brought to life with broadswords on loan from the Milwaukee Rep.

Quasi has pulled together an impressive cast for the show, including Angela Iannone, James Fletcher, Jake Russo, Michael Cotey and Libby Amato, among others. Henry V runs May 28 through June 7 at Marquette University's Helfaer Theatre.

Also opening this weekend is a new play by E. Taylor that is being independently produced. Forgive Us Our Trespasses is set in the Great Depression. Cullen Moll stars as a gangster who owns a small Southern town. Liz Shipe appears as his wife. The drama runs May 29-30 at Carte Blanche Studios on 1024 S. Fifth St.

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