The Henry Project
By Jessica Osborne
What can one say about the Henry Project over at the Vortex Theatre in Albuquerque? Ambitious, comprehensive and very enjoyable will do quite nicely. I made it out to the opening weekend of Henry V and was blown away by a tour de force performance by Quinn Manders as Henry V (also playing Hal in Henry IV.) He was outstanding.
Those familiar with Santa Fe’s theatre scene will be well acquainted with Manders work and I for one have always been a fan but for those that are not, you are in for a treat… for those that are, I think this is quite possibly his best work to date.
Assured, passionate and intimately connected to the words and the people around him, Manders shines. And I do not mean to say he outshone the ensemble around him because everyone rose to meet his level. Particulary, Samatha Orner (Mountjoy, the herald)… she exuded “French” with every thought, look and word. Wonderful.
Another stand out was Caroline Patz (Princess Catherine), in the most aptly interpreted “love” scene I have ever seen. It was hilarious- by his awkward absurdity and outrageously presumptious declarations of “love”. Her response was simultaneously funny, heartbreaking and very appropriate in its disdain and hesitation.
The scene was quintessentially English (thanks to the wonderfully brusque and unconscious manner from Manders) and adequately offensive providing Patz reasonable cause to pause in her acceptance of her new King – it was highly appropriate. I heard one audience member remark that they felt Patz should love her suitor more… but I, for one, completely agreed with the interpretation. No sane woman could be happy or excited to be wed to man that she does not know, add to that- to be courted so quickly and tactlessly after he had slaughtered her kinsman. It was perfect. Learning French does not constitute an amorous prior attachment as has been interpreted in the past and I say bravo to the directorial team in this choice.
Speaking of direction, hats off must go to Peter Kierst. His interpretation was strong, with great pacing and an overall clarity of language from all involved. I loved the set- stark, simple and displayed on the round – perfect for the black box setting of the Vortex. War imagery was displayed upon video screens above the action at the top of the play and periodically through the show to set the scene, which were subtle and influential without over stating a specific time or state of mind.
Sound design amplified the action but did not distract. Costumes were ambiguous enough to give a sense of war without defining a time that might distract from the characters and story. It was clear that his team and cast were well guided by his sure hand. I would have liked to have seen more imagery and visualization from the minds of the chorus in their requests for the audience to use their imagination to set the scene but overall a fine show.
Get yourself down to the Vortex Theatre before this ends, even if Shakespeare is not your thing – Manders performance will make you forget that you are watching a historical play and transport you into the mind of an ambitious King. Don’t miss it!
What: Henry V by William Shakespeare, directed by Peter Kierst.
When: November 11tt- December 4th
Friday & Saturday 7:30pm | Sunday 2pm
Where: The Vortex Theatre
2900 Carlisle Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110
Featured photo: Hal (Quinn Mander) and Hotspur (Martin Andrews) fight in Henry IV. Photo by Lynn Roylance