The Mobile Unit brings a warring King and his band of brothers to the Public Theater and communities all across New York, with this stripped-down production of William Shakespeare's 'Henry V.' More…
Insulted by the regent of France, Britain’s King Henry V decides to wage war and claim the throne across the Channel. But Henry’s charm only distracts the soldiers for so long before the dire stakes of their task call into question the King’s true motives and direction. Resonating across the centuries—wherever there may be a kingdom for a stage, and royalty to act—Shakespeare’s drama about invasion, ego, and leadership, delves into history’s thorniest questions: What makes a person worthy of wearing the crown, and what do they owe the people they lead?
"In the hands of Williams, Henry V is simply Henry, struggling with his position as king...Williams is remarkable. As is the rest of this ensemble. Ketting as Katherine is outrageously funny...War, the complexities of it, the greed of it, and this battle over land that Henry says is England's, and the loss of it, are all played out beautifully in this most exceptional of Shakespearean plays...Such a great way to bring your child, ten and older, to their first Shakespeare or their 20th." Full Review
"To put it bluntly, there’s not just one element that makes this particular production a monumental one. In fact, there are a multitude of reasons...King Henry V, is played here by a woman (Zenzi Williams) and it works extremely well...Somehow, through the magic of theater, everyone was enthralled with the entire production, even if they didn’t quite understand what was going on every single moment...When a production is done this well, the insight and inspiration provided is limitless." Full Review
"Acted with great energy and professionalism by a multiethnic group of talented young performers under the quirky but mostly effective direction of O'Hara...Williams does beautifully with her delivery of Shakespeare's great war orations...It's not all war stuff. The most crowd-pleasing depiction is that of Katherine...Kettig is very funny... Newcomers to the play, or to Shakespeare for that matter, ought to prepare a bit ahead of time, but even those familiar with both will find much to enjoy." Full Review
"This is Shakespeare the way Papp intended—raw, grassroots, and accessible—and it is thrilling...Mr. O’Hara milks an abridged version of Shakespeare’s text to emphasize and engorge every comedic moment possible...Mr. O’Hara undoubtedly takes the comedy too far, cheapening the serious themes at work in Shakespeare’s text, but he also provides a way in for audiences who aren’t as familiar with Elizabethan parlance." Full Review
"Shakespeare purists may be put off by the...laid-back, loosey-goosey style...Henry V is ripe for this type of minimalist theatrical treatment...Williams has got fire in her eyes and ferocity in her heart. When you hear her Saint Crispin's Day speech, you'll be ready to get up and follow her into battle yourself...O'Hara and Williams also put a surprising twist on the famous fifth-act seduction of Princess Katharine...It's a brave choice, and one that works brilliantly." Full Review
"Zenzi Williams charges into the title role with brio...The French King and his countrymen are portrayed with exaggerated snooty attitudes bringing some cartoonish humor into the proceedings, but the versatile ensemble is better showcased sharing the role of the commenting chorus...Mobile Unit productions are best seen as a celebration of our culture and imagined through the eyes of someone who may not be able to afford, or be able to physically attend, live theatre." Full Review
"Though helmed unevenly...this Mobile Unit production scores with Williams in the nominal role...O'Hara's new take...could benefit from a less comic tone and more natural acting. With the exception of Williams, and a few other performers in the cast, the acting becomes too zany...Yet O'Hara and Williams together have opened the door wider for female actors, not only for stepping into the role of 'Henry V', but for tackling other major parts in Shakespeare's plays." Full Review
"Casting a woman of color as Henry brings new layers to this already morally ambivalent drama, and Williams is fabulous...O'Hara plays up the text's humor almost to the point of parody; the French get the worst of it, as the cast goes full throttle into fey Gallic stereotype...Shows are free, so it may be churlish to complain that this production is too much fun...This 'Henry V' is one you can cheer for, but not one that commands your undying devotion." Full Review
"As the assured and rash monarch, Zenzi Williams upends theatergoers’ expectations in director Robert O’Hara’s funny, shocking, slightly uneven 'Henry V'...O’Hara’s treatment of the French court is very heavy-handed...The actors muddle Shakespeare’s verses with overdramatic French accents...O’Hara’s interpretation of the ending is jarring, in a good way...A powerful ending and a timely commentary on what admired male rulers turn out to be, and for that alone, it’s worth seeing." Full Review
"Williams, in the title role, makes quite clear that she is an actress gifted with a powerful presence and a well-honed classical technique...The rest of the cast is equally adept in classical theatre, but they aren't always well served by O'Hara's direction. His biggest error has been to encourage the actors, when they are playing members of the French court, to adopt caricatured French accents...O'Hara's direction is certainly pacey, but it's hard to detect a coherent point of view." Full Review
"O'Hara's brisk production gets the story told, from Harfleur to Agincourt to an uneasy peace. But with the pointed exception of this final scene, it doesn't always seem to know which story it's telling. This version isn't an unthinking endorsement of rah-rah patriotism, but it's not really an attack on nation-building either; the critique stays personal. For large stretches it isn't much of anything except fast and mildly funny." Full Review
See it if If you like Papp/Public Theater interpretations of Shakespeare in an intimate setting.
Don't see it if If you insist on a traditional interpretation. The French accents are annoying and poor choice in an otherwise interesting show.
See it if O'Hara undercuts his white hot 'masculine' staging using non-gender casting & sexual politics Volitile & edgy with audience as battlefield
Don't see it if Phenomenal performance by Zenzi Williams as Henry despite choppy rhythms French court as pack of fops lands flat Duel casting confusion
See it if you like watching ensemble theatre where the actors interact with the audience, make bold choices and commit with 100% of their being.
Don't see it if you'll miss the war aspects of the play, characters such as Pistol and Fluellen or don't want to be yelled at by Henry for almost two hours.
See it if you want a fast-paced, trimmed HV, w/impressive Zenzi Wms as Henry. Lots of directorial flourishes. Humor. Staged in the round. Spare.
Don't see it if you want to get every word. Heavy French accents (ugh) & too much shouting (it echoes). New approach to wooing scene undermines WS's intent.
See it if You like diverse casts that cross gender lines. The house lights are on so part of the show is watching the audience reaction to the actors.
Don't see it if You prefer large, epic productions of Shakespeare - this is small and intimate. This is abridged so it's much shorter than the original.
See it if Pros: diverse cast, new interpretation w/ rendered text, farce
Don't see it if Cons: over-acting, new interpretation...don’t think it’s better than the original, don’t like the overly comical tone
See it if you enjoy Shakespeare at it's minimalistic bottom. Great casting choices, multiple roles for all. short and sweet
Don't see it if you are a traditionalist and don't welcome unique casting choices and interpretation
See it if You would like a upbeat, speedy Henry, with appealing young actors and free tickets.
Don't see it if You don't want to wait a long time on line for those free tickets. There are some issues understanding the text at times.
See it if Great acting of a diverse cast, but hard to follow loose plot
Don't see it if Fake accents + ye olde English + acoustic issues make it hard to hear lines. I understood more plot from the acting than the dialogue.
Also Free ticket from online lottery.
See it if You love all things Shakespeare no matter what.
Don't see it if You want to see some action instead of long drawn out speeches and a rude take on the French with no redeeming quality.
See it if you’ll settle. Show’s fine for hearing the famous lines aloud but doesn’t get across why this play is loved (& unclear if it’s intentional).
Don't see it if you want hardcore theater, for grand speech to logically correspond to grand events; miss the ingenuity of Mobile Unit’s Twelfth Night.
See it if you like productions that breathe new life into Shakespeare with provocative takes on well-known material & taut, propulsive staging.
Don't see it if you find the Boars Head Tavern crew or the “ethnic” Welsh/Scotch/Irish characters too much fun to part with: they’ve all been cut.
See it if You like free Shakespeare. The Public always does a great job. I especially enjoy the way they pull humor out of scenes.
Don't see it if Henry is played by a female ... although a gender neutral character. This may bother some. Huge chunks have been cut from the play ...
See it if You want to see Shakespeare perfomed in a very accessible production
Don't see it if You do not want your Shakespeare interpreted very differently from how it was written
See it if You want to see a daring modern urban playwright take on a directorial challenge that is he not quite up to.
Don't see it if You dislike incessant screaming, the strangest seduction scene in history, and direction that is lost and clueless.
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