Theatre Review: The Lion In Winter


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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, July 16, 2009

The setting is Medieval England, with ermine robes and jeweled crowns.  But several factors make this play feel strangely contemporary. Let’s start with King Henry, an aging monarch with a mane of gray hair, having an affair with a woman in her early 20s. She loves the King, but doubts his sincerity.

“When can I believe you, Henry?”

“Always. Even when I lie.”

(laughter)

The King has three sons, each contending for the crown -- and only one of them can enter into a dynastic marriage that the King has arranged. Yet son Richard, who doesn’t trust anyone, including his father, abruptly decides to reject the match.

“There will be no wedding.”

“But my boy, look.

“Not at this price.”

“Durham's waiting. Marry her, for my sake. It isn't much to ask.”

“Never!”

“But I promised it to Philip. Think of my position.”

“Damn the wedding and damn with your position.”

This family power struggle is endless, and each convoluted new scheme for domination produces only another stalemate – shades of California’s budget crisis! Yet despite the constant plotting, and the occasional drawn knife, “The Lion in Winter” is a comedy – the kind with sophisticated wordplay, and punch lines that make you wince and snicker at the same time. This is also an independent production by a startup group, aiming to fill the void created by the unhappy demise of the Foothill Theater Company. The show is good-looking, smartly staged, and smoothly paced -- a worthy launch.

“The Lion in Winter” continues through July 25 at the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley