By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Funny, he's not so funny in this version. He's still a fat, boozy old braggart, but as portrayed by Kyle McClaran, he's unbearably pompous and more pathetic than Otis, Mayberry's town drunk. The audience is supposed to love Falstaff, so much so that they feel as betrayed as he when, at the end of Henry IV II(which arrives around 11 p.m. in this version), newly crowned King Henry V rejects him and imposes a sort of royal restraining order to keep him far away from court. This less-than-likable Falstaff is forced to carry Henry IV on his stooped shoulders, and it's too heavy a load.
As Hal, young David Goodwin is slighted by the rewrites. He evolves too quickly from drunken lout to officious bureaucrat. Lynn Mathis is a superb King Henry IV, but his role, too, is diminished in favor of more Falstaff scenes. Tina Parker makes a lively punk yobbo as Poins, a role traditionally played by a man. The rest of the diverse cast is just all right. (Last Saturday they were hampered by microphone problems.)
The production is oddly designed. The characters appear in modern dress (designed by Giva Taylor) that combines camouflage uniforms and tailored business suits. The soldiers wear berets and look like U.N. Peacekeepers. The wenches get platform disco boots and hot pants. Lord Westmoreland (Kevin Paul Hofeditz) is dressed like Sam Spade in a trench coat and fedora. Old Falstaff slops around in a tropical green shirt and carries an aluminum baseball bat for a cudgel. None of it makes much sense, and it's all too precious by half.
Henry IV continues at Samuell-Grand Park through July 21. All performances are free.
Russell Parkman's set design centers on a tall white staircase that glides around the stage. With its white floor and corrugated steel doors, the stage resembles the lobby of one of those impossibly trendy, unwelcoming Manhattan hotels.
The whole production feels unwelcoming, actually, and never really hooks the hoi polloi out there on the lawn with their picnic baskets.