Cast and crew of The Lion in Winter (l-r, back): Wednesday Hobson, Angelo Romanelli, Stacey Havener, William Fair, Kat Fair, Nick Vaughn, Dana Jens, Colton Fair; (front): Nick Mullen, Jay Potter and Em McLoughlin.
Locally Produced Show Moves to Santa Clarita for 3 Weeks
By Patric Hedlund
Christmas came early this year to those who love theater as a kind of church for ideas. The human quest to seize power, love, freedom and meaning before the final curtain of death is the subject of The Lion In Winter, presented November 18-19 in a beautifully produced dinner theater format at Pine Mountain Club’s Condor Room by FairPrinzRaven Productions. Golden plates, flickering candlelight and a sumptuous feast invite the audience into King Henry II’s Christmas Court in year 1183, when for one night all the royal family gathers together. The fictional story is suspended between history and legend as the Plantagenet family that ruled much of Britain and France in the 12th century is displayed as a pit of hissing vipers, mewling in elegant language with shameless candor of their thwarted lust for power.
In fact, if every actor yearns to play an epic villain, playwright James Goldman has created the perfect actors’ play. Lion is inhabited by nothing but villains. The leads, William Fair as Henry II and Stacey Havener as Eleanor of Aquitaine, his imprisoned queen, are strong.
Kat Fair is credited with directing, and the directing here is generous. She nurtures a space where despair cohabits with yearning under desolate conditions of the human heart, stated with such frankness it makes us laugh, often: Henry locks his French wife in a distant castle, the queen whom he once loved and who gave him three sons but who ceaselessly plots against him. He grapples with the tug of his own mortality and his inability to pass the crown amiably to one of his heirs.
Locally, William Fair last explored the psyche of medieval men in tunics and boots as Petruchio in the Mountain Shakespeare Festival’s Taming of the Shrew. In Lion, his Henry II juggles the desire to marry his young lover (though Rome’s pope still rules the ability of kings to wed) with his ambition to conquer all of France.
Eleanor of Aquitaine is a brilliant changeling in this play. Always a French princess ahead of being Henry’s queen or anyone’s mother, she spins plots of insurrection with irony and brutal refinement. In this wry role of ambition, manipulation, lust, love and frailty, Havener shows the commitment of a born actress. Those who played the part on Broadway won Tony Awards. It brought Katherine Hepburn an Oscar in Hollywood. Through the lens of this woman, Lion reveals with emotionally brutal humor how the hunger for power isolates, becoming its own prison of the soul.
Next Stop: Santa Clarita’s SET Theater for December. 10, 11, 12; Dec. 17, 18, 19 and Dec. 30, 31. $15/ticket, 27600 Bouquet Canyon Road Santa Clarita, CA 91355. Call 661-263-3733 for reservations.
This is part of the December 03, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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