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Henry VI (National Asian American Theatre Company)

From 14 critic and 52 member reviews
Members say: Ambitious, Great staging, Great acting, Absorbing, Epic

About the show

NAATCO (The National Asian American Theatre Company) presents a new adaptation of Shakespeare's historical trilogy, condensed into two parts and performed in rep. More…

'Henry VI' is Shakespeare’s saga of a nation spinning wildly out of control. It is the story of a great nation’s decent into barbarism and cruelty. It is also a study of how the experience of a problematic foreign war erodes civil discourse at home, and how that erosion allows political self-interests to take hold and send a country hurtling into civil war.

Theater Pizzazz

“This production is not to be missed...NAATCO has pulled out all the stops to make the entire story as clear as possible...The the absolutely fantastic staging, which lends an intensity and excitement to the plays that might otherwise have been lacking...The cast itself features standouts who make ordinary roles rise above their usual prominence in the plays...This production exposes more than usual the universality of Shakespeare’s themes of war and avarice.” Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Because these actors would seldom be cast in most productions of this difficult, rarely staged trio of plays, there’s a palpable urgency in the excellence of the performances. By the end of six hours, it’s hard to picture anyone else in these roles, thanks to the relentless power of this company’s efforts. That our focus holds for this (very rarely wearying) marathon is in large part due to the boundlessly creative, perpetually smart direction by Stephen Brown-Fried." Full Review

Front Row Center

"Under Brown-Fried’s inspired direction, this company has taken these histories and brought out only their best elements...There is little to no issue of confusion as actors appear in multiple roles: Aside from ample context given during the scenes, the integrity of many of these roles were solidified by extremely memorable performances...The work of the actors and Brown-Fried’s condensation has greatly improved the pacing...There’s something in this show for everyone!" Full Review

The New York Times

"It’s a production that asks nearly six hours from your life, but it repays you handsomely. Fast-paced and gripping, this is an unusually lucid staging of a bloody history play, whose surfeit of schemes and villainy could make a daytime-drama writer blush. Yet for all the battles and beheadings in Stephen Brown-Fried’s handsomely designed production, never does it take death lightly. That’s one of the remarkable things about it." Full Review


“Inventive and spectacular two-part adaptation...An excellent all-Asian cast...Creatively conceived by Brown-Fried and superbly directed by him, his Orson Welles-like vision transcends the difficult material. This sterling production is also an inspired example of American actors succeeding at Shakespeare...Brown-Fried obtains uniformly vivid performances from them and the semblance that they are a unified company.” Full Review

Village Voice

"Staged with great style and verve by the National Asian American Theatre Company (NAATCO). One lesson from this engaging account: The downfall of a bad ruler may be prologue to one who’s even worse...Brown-Fried has assembled a solid acting ensemble and design team for this cynical, gory epic..I never tired of NAATCO’s appealing, expert ensemble as it navigated the twisty chronicles." Full Review

The Clyde Fitch Report

“Elegant two-part adaptation...Accented by gender-blind casting...The end effect is superb: we focus on the power held by the characters, not the anatomy...Algya’s sound design provides a throbbing drumbeat of battle scenes...Slaven’s splendid costumes are used to provide narrative clues...Fight scenes...are also key to the success of this beautiful pair of plays...From the battlefield to the bed chamber to the royal court, we are never allowed to settle into any kind of realistic world." Full Review


“This nearly six hour condensation smartly keeps the action moving at an exciting clip without sacrificing the many details of the dizzying plot mechanizations...Brown-Fried helms this huge effort...and he does so with impressive theatrical imagination and thrilling momentum...even if some performances/performers were stronger than others – veteran actors Katigbak and Bose were in particularly fine form – it was a great pleasure to see these underserved actors in such non-traditional roles." Full Review

New York Theater

“Brown-Fried’s adaptation is simply but gorgeously designed, largely well acted, and effectively staged...with exciting choreography, suspenseful music and dramatic lighting...Sixteen actors portray some 100 characters...there is just no way that mortals can keep track of who’s who without some assistance...Adding to the confusion is the casting of several both male and female roles...Still, there are enough vivid performances to anchor this English history lesson.” Full Review

Off Off Online

“Brown-Fried has skillfully streamlined the text of Shakespeare’s monumental trilogy...The perspicaciously abridged script keeps this ‘Henry VI’ moving at a gallop...The most striking physical aspect of this production is its battlefield choreography...The 16 actors embody a massive number of roles, with doubling that's always effective and intriguing. All performers aren't equal in technique, but none are markedly weak. And the principals are everything one might hope.” Full Review

New York Stage Review

"The National Asian American Theatre Company and director Stephen Brown-Fried have smartly condensed the three plays into two. The total running time is still more than five and a half hours, but it’s a small price to pay for such an ambitious production...For me, the best part of these plays was the discovery of the mouthy Margaret, the ball-busting queen...The text could have been cut a smidge more." Full Review


"The ambitious staging combines Shakespeare's three parts into two...The production is sprawling, and at moments drops into sluggishness. But at its best, the breadth of the universe and ambition of the storytelling becomes truly dizzying...NAATCO's 'Henry VI' demands a lot of your time and your attention, but for those willing to put in the effort, the impressively acted and thoughtfully enlightening production proves to be an striking new take on this historical classic." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"One is inescapably reminded of Shakespeare's enduring modernity. These plays, written in the late sixteenth century, depicting events of nearly a century earlier, are defined by a cool, calculating gaze that seems thoroughly of today...Under Brown-Fried's direction, the overall performance is, almost necessarily, uneven...Still, the sheer sweep of Shakespeare's vision holds one captive, and the fast-paced, highly economical staging never sags for a moment." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Not that NAATCO doesn't do a splendid job with this vivid history of the Wars of the Roses...There's just so damn much of it...It's a lot to keep track of and much of the first hour or two at NAATCO is spent wondering, Who's he? Who's she? Why are they so angry at each other?..Once you've puzzled out the dramatis personae, it's relatively easy to follow, and the emotions rattling across NAATCO's ample stage are strong and affecting." Full Review

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging, Masterful

See it if You want to see likely the best staging of Henry VI to come around in ages, you want to see amazing strong women playing strong characters

Don't see it if You don't like Shakespeare, want mindless brain candy, or are bothered by simulated death and torture

Also Guys, the lighting, staging, and acting in this show are all phenomena... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Must see, Riveting

See it if you enjoy Shakespeare and brilliant staging, along with an outstanding cast of actors

Don't see it if you aren't a fan of Shakespeare, because this is one of his lesser plays, but still proves to be enticing

Absorbing, Great staging, Great acting, Epic, Dizzying

See it if You like Shakespeare, stage fighting, great (though still minimal) staging, you want to support Asian actors in English plays.

Don't see it if You can't sit through 6 hours of the Bard.

Also Fantastic performance by Mahira Kakkar.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intense, Profound, Thought-provoking

See it if You are interested in expanding your knowledge of the canon or seeing a wonderful group of actors perform a rarely-done play.

Don't see it if You don't have the patience to remember which English lord is which and who is on who's side.

Ambitious, Great staging, Intense, Clever, Epic

See it if you want a fresh and artistic take on Shakespeare's history plays.

Don't see it if you don't care for Shakespeare, or flashing lights (which are way cool; why don't you like them?)

Also Well done! History plays can be tough to make interesting, but NAATCO ... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Epic, Great acting, Refreshing

See it if you like Shakespeare, especially performed by a troupe of Asian actors at the top of their game!

Don't see it if you don't like Shakespeare

Relevant, Epic, Intelligent

See it if you want to see multiple story lines clearly told, you wanna see key Shakespearean themes acted out well

Don't see it if you hate Shakespeare, or aren't able to sit through 2 nights of 3+ hour shows

Absorbing, Great staging, Must see, Ambitious, Epic

See it if you want to see a 1st-rate company mount a riveting, lively, deft, accessible, unimposing, relevant, rewarding staging of a challenging work

Don't see it if you don't have the 6 hrs (over 2 parts) to devote, as you really should see both parts if you're going to see it at all [But it's worth it!]

Also What a revelation! A completely unpretentious & accessible production ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging, Masterful

See it if excellent performance of a great classic work interest you. The use of the stage, the clarity of pronunciation and meaning are extraordinary

Don't see it if you can't sit still for 2 hours. Seeing both parts makes for a dramatic experience but a very long day. In spite of very comfortable chairs

Ambitious, Entertaining, Intelligent, Epic, Great acting

See it if you love Shakespeare done by an ambitious company of brave actors

Don't see it if don't like Shakespeare tragedies.

Epic, Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging

See it if you enjoy epic, exciting, violent (esp in Part 2) plays; you're a Shakespeare/Marlowe fan;

Don't see it if you hate Shakespeare; you have a short attention span; you have trouble keeping track of large numbers or characters

Also If you only have time for one part, go for Part 2. Part 1 squeezes Hen... Read more Read less

Brilliant, Huge, Powerful, Masterful, Confusing

See it if Brilliantly directed, staged, acted. A must-see. Even odd "gender-neutral" casting decisions didn't diminish the better performances.

Don't see it if There's a reason Shakespeare's Histories aren't performed as often as his Tragedies and Comedies. You need a scorecard to follow the action

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting

See it if you enjoy classical play done with proficiency and convictions.

Don't see it if long play bores you.

Ambitious, Great staging, Absorbing, Refreshing, Riveting

See it if You want to see the sprawling War of the Roses in a well staged production with Asian actors. Great choreography and lighting design.

Don't see it if You don't want to sit through six hours of Shakespeare or find it difficult to follow actors playing multiple roles.

Ambitious, Dizzying, Epic, Must see, Riveting

See it if you love Shakespeare well-done, gripping.

Don't see it if you don't love Shakespeare

Also The adaptation is excellent, the performances excellent. The very firs... Read more Read less

Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent, Great ensemble, Smart direction

See it if you’re a Shakespeare completist—I mean that in a good way bcz I am. Exceptionally challenging play intelligently navigated w/ few precedents

Don't see it if it’s your 1st history play; don’t want H6 compressed; prefer a probing character study to a barrage of rhetorical & physical skirmishes

Also Bose=serious star turn as Richard Plantagenet. Warwick, Gloucester, Ta... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Absorbing, Great staging, Masterful, Great acting

See it if you like Shakespeare, you like history, you like diverse casts

Don't see it if you don't like Shakespeare.

Also I saw Part I first night of previews, and was impressed with the cast.... Read more Read less

Epic, Great acting, Great staging, Entertaining, Riveting

See it if You want a real life Game of Thrones. You want Shakespeare by a well-trained classical cast w/simple, yet effective staging.

Don't see it if You don't like verse plays. You don't want to commit to an epic-length(6 hrs) play. You have no familiarity w/the War of the Roses.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great staging, Great acting, Riveting

See it if you're interested in these rarely-produced plays; to support this wonderful small company with a long history; to binge-watch some theater!

Don't see it if Shakespeare isn't your bag.

Also Strong stagecraft all around here. I would suggest taking advantage of... Read more Read less

Clever, Ambitious, Great staging

See it if Well acted exciting Shakespeare .You almost always know what is happening in this epic 6 hour show shown in a small theater

Don't see it if you want a traditional view, don't like gender bending casting or want to go to a theater that is on 10th Ave and 53rd street. Very GU

Also Part 2 picks it up a notch and is more fast paced

Great staging, Great design, Great acting, Great compilation, Great direction

See it if you’ve ever wanted to find a way to see the Henry VI portion of the War of the Roses in a compact, streamlined production.

Don't see it if you are averse to Shakespeare.

Also this is is an outstanding Shakespeare history production, full stop. M... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great staging

See it if You want to see a rarely performed Shakespeare play -- done well.

Don't see it if You have a limited attention span. This requires you to pay attention -- for six hours.

Also Well done by the National Asian American Theater. Henry VI is terribly... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging, Masterful

See it if You enjoy Game of Thrones. (Or, you know, Shakespeare) Want to support the NAATC. Enjoy macabre plays with lots of plotting and murder.

Don't see it if Dislike any abridgment of Shakespearean text. This is an adaptation that reduces three parts into two, though it does so effectively.

Also "Why, what is pomp, rule, reign, but earth and dust?... Read more Read less

Great acting, Ambitious, Entertaining, Intelligent, Long

See it if you enjoy excellent productions of Shakespeare with terrific acting and cleverly staged fight scenes. It is very long, but holds attention.

Don't see it if you don't have the endurance for such a long play (3:10 + 2:30) or you do not like Shakespeare tragedies/history plays.

Also If you like Shakespeare go see this production. It is produced at a ve... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Epic, Ambitious

See it if You want to see a brilliant and rarely done Shakespeare play. Great acting from almost everyone. Effortless switching between roles

Don't see it if You don't want to sit for almost six hours total. It does a great job of keeping you engaged but it is a long play.

Also Completely worth the time and energy getting to the theater and sittin... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (23)