Director Moriarty, a devourer of pop culture, can't help but inject gimmicky modern references into Shakespeare. He did it with last year's season opener, A Midsummer Night's Dream, with its pop music breaks and Keith Haring-inspired scenery, and he does it in Henry IV. As Hal realizes he'll have to grow up, Moriarty has him sing Rufus Wainwright's plaintive ballad "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" to a simple guitar and harmonica accompaniment. Jarring, to say the least, though Walters croons nicely. Later the whole cast gathers for a rousing bit of choral harmonizing on the English hymn "Jerusalem," a reference perhaps to King Henry's wish to die there, but another anachronistic jolt.

This one will be a tough sell to all but the Shakespeare diehards, but here's the best reason to see it, even if you're Bard-shy: Randy Moore. Star of the Dallas Theater Center for more than 30 years at its original home at Kalita Humphreys Theater, Moore, now 71 and still acting in Denver, is brilliant in the role of Falstaff. Moore's performance is more than comic relief; he's the heart and soul of Henry IV. Onstage alone, talking directly to the audience, Moore is in full command, with a mastery of timing, vocal technique and movement that defines him as one of the great actors of the American stage, regional or otherwise.

Christina Vela, as Mistress Quickly, and Steven Walters, as Prince Hal, wade across waves of plywood on designer John Coyne’s set for Henry IV.
Nan Coulter
Christina Vela, as Mistress Quickly, and Steven Walters, as Prince Hal, wade across waves of plywood on designer John Coyne’s set for Henry IV.

"The better part of valor is discretion," says Falstaff, who, as portrayed by Moore, is the best part of this play.

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