For a Montford Park Players production, Henry IV, Part 1 is supported by a remarkably steady vision. It’s a cut version of the play, trimmed to two hours. Yet not much is lost in the pruning.
While the acting skill varied greatly from performer to performer, most players seemed at home in their roles. In Shakespeare productions, it’s often the case that the actors will say their lines with no idea of their meaning, but this doesn’t hold true with Montford’s Henry IV. In fact, a strong sense of story might be this production’s biggest bragging point.
Of particular note was Frank Avery’s take on Falstaff, in many ways the play’s principal comedic relief. Falstaff is the star of the show — and Avery does a remarkable job playing him: Imagine Burgess Meredith doing an impeccable impression of W.C. Fields in iambic pentameter, and you get a good idea of Avery’s success. Even through the antiquated phrasing, the actor was able to produce belly laughs from the crowd.
Although still far from a professional production — this is community theater, after all — Henry IV never became hard to watch (not the case with many previous Montford shows). At no point did poor direction, embarrassing performances or on-stage dead time interrupt the flow.
New guard, take a bow.
— Steve Shanafelt