Prince Hal a hit in Clark Park

Posted: August 02, 2014

Go big or go home. This line of thinking dominates Henry IV: Your Prince and Mine, this summer's free outdoor production by Shakespeare in Clark Park and Team Sunshine Performance Corporation.

For starters, Henry IV: YPM boasts several of Philly's top professionals in a standout cast of 12, with little doubling of roles. Local musical virtuoso Alex Bechtel leads a choir of eight and composed sterling thematic music that emotionally underscores many of the intrigue- and familial-driven scenes.

And then there's the army, the 100-person army that takes over and takes full use of Clark Park's natural bowl-shaped grounds during Benjamin Camp's choreographed enactment of the Battle of Shrewsbury. The fight also features several standout one-on-one sword (and axe!) melees choreographed separately by Brett Cassidy. Combined with the original songs, the battle borders on a religious fervor in its staging.

Of course, Shakespeare wrote no play with this title, and director Alex Torra and his crew stitched together the story line mostly from the Bard's Henry IV, Part I, and the ending of Henry IV, Part II. Clark Park's Henry IV runs on two tracks: One depicts the boyish Prince Hal (Brian Ratcliffe) ignoring his duties to carouse with his older, degenerate friend Falstaff (an excellent Charlie DelMarcelle).

Ratcliffe and DelMarcelle create a friendship of mirth and laughter, their buoyant exchanges and bombastic jests a fun balance to the play's weightier themes and issues. The other track presents political intrigue and betrayal: King Henry IV (Brian Anthony Wilson) guards his throne jealously, alienating allies and fomenting rebellion from the hot-tempered Hotspur (a fiery Daniel Frederick), the mystic-obsessed Glendower (Robert Ian Cutler, solid in multiple roles), and the Scottish Earl of Douglas (a fierce Justin Rose).

If it sounds like the hit show Game of Thrones, well, this tale of shifting strategies actually happened, and plays better in live performance, even if the serious politicking gets shorter shrift in this two-hour telling (particularly in the somewhat stagnant father-son dynamic between Ratcliffe and Wilson).

But this big production is a hit, an estimable hit, as Hamlet might have reckoned, in this summer of superb Shakespeare productions celebrating the 450th anniversary of the Bard's birth.


Henry IV: Your Prince and Mine

Through Sunday at Clark Park, Chester Avenue and 43d Street. All shows at 7 p.m. Admission free. Information: 215-764-5345 or shakespeareinclarkpark.org.

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