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We're Henry IV, We Are, We Are: The Plays, in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Are the Things

Everybody knows that Henry IV is the Shakespearean king who comes in two parts, both of which are best known for containing the miracle ingredient Falstaff. This fall, however, New York is going to be one of the rare cities where the bipartite monarch will appear not only in two plays but in two venues, in versions likely to be as different from each other as—well, as Windsor Castle is from a tavern in Eastcheap. Up at Lincoln Center Theater, the Vivian Beaumont

will hold a star-spangled cast, under the direction of Broadway maestro Jack O'Brien (lately best known for helming Hairspray), in a one-evening conflation by Dakin Matthews of Shakespeare's two five-act plays. Richard Easton, who won a Best Actor Tony as the aged A.E. Housman in O'Brien's Lincoln Center staging of Tom Stoppard's Invention of Love, will play the multi-tormented title character, with Billy Crudup's Prince Hal and the normally svelte Kevin Kline as the fat knight whose boozing and braggadocio are the play's mirror-reversed image of kingship, a walking advertisement for un-royal behavior. The busy cast will also include beloved Dana Ivey, doubling as haughty Lady Northumberland and low-down Mistress Quickly, plus Ethan Hawke as the rebellious knight Harry Percy, or Hotspur, and Audra McDonald as his equally hot-tempered lady.

Across the river, the Brooklyn Academy of Music will supply only the first half of Henry's story, but this may be more than enough for conventional-minded subscribers, since the motivating force behind BAM's premiere production—the first-ever specially commissioned staging of a classic play in the Next Wave Festival—is its director, Richard Maxwell, the Obie-winning wunderkind of downtown deadpan. How Maxwell's downbeat, hyperreal, anti-illusionist approach will square with Shakespeare's panoply of scenes and elaborate verbal flights is an even bigger question than where Kevin Kline will get Falstaff's physical amplitude. Maxwell's cast, unannounced as of press time, will include core members of the company that's engaged audiences with such distinctly un-Shakespearean ventures as House and Drummer Wanted, their ranks swelled by professional and nonprofessional ringers to a cast size of 23—certainly the largest company ever assembled for one of Maxwell's works, which are usually on the intimate side.

Richard Maxwell directs BAM's production.
photo: Sylvia Plachy
Richard Maxwell directs BAM's production.

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Facing off from opposite boroughs and opening within a month of each other, the two productions with their contrasting approaches make sense as a way of illuminating the story of hard-nosed, power-minded Henry Bolingbroke, who has seized the English throne from his inadequate cousin Richard II (a tale told in another of Shakespeare's history plays), and now finds ruling a joyless task, what with his son Hal (who'll grow up to be Henry V, lately incarnated in Central Park by Liev Schreiber) hanging out in taverns with the circle of petty thieves and lowlifes dominated by the bawdy, loose-living Falstaff, who serves him as a surrogate father and underworld king. As if generational dissent weren't enough, Henry has to contend with a set of fractious nobles (including another father-and-son team, the Percys), whose view of kingly paternalism is even more aggressively hostile than his own son's. Shakespeare's diptych is a set of running contrasts, comparing kings' and nobles' right to rule, courtiers against commoners, law against license, pleasure against duty, and ultimately age versus youth. Even heedless Hal matures; even hedonistic Falstaff grows old and autumnal. It's hard to imagine a better battleground for the play's issues than the eternal New York conflicts of downtown against uptown, Manhattan against Brooklyn. Get ready for the reverb of chimes at midnight.

Henry IV, Part One, runs September 30 through October 4, BAM Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, 718-636-4100. Shakespeare's Henry IV begins previews October 28 and opens November 20, Vivian Beaumont Theater, Lincoln Center, 212-239-6277.


Previews by Brian Parks


BECKETT/ALBEE
Opens September 9

CENTURY CENTER, 111 EAST 15TH STREET, 212.239.6200

Actors Marian Seldes and Brian Murray pair up in this series of one-acts by Edward Albee and Samuel Beckett, echoing the writers' first New York matchup, the 1960 production of The Zoo Story and Krapp's Last Tape at the Provincetown Playhouse.


THE NIGHT HERON
September 16-November 9

THE ATLANTIC THEATER, 336 WEST 20TH STREET, 212.645.8015

Kidnapping, religious cults, and a poetry contest figure prominently in Jezz Butterworth's new piece, just as they do on select nights back at my folks' house. His first play since Mojo, The Night Heron will be directed by Neil Pepe and features actors Chris Bauer and Mary McCann.


SACRIFICE TO EROS
September 30-December 14

THE PANTHEON THEATER, 303 WEST 42ND STREET, 212.868.4444

This Common Ground production is a retelling of the biblical tale of the Prodigal Son, but relocated to a farm during the Great Depression. Frederick Timm's script also adds in a gay theme, much to the dismay of Saint Paul. Expect a new Letter to the Corinthians.


CAROLINE, OR CHANGE
Previews October 28

THE JOSEPH PAPP PUBLIC THEATER, 425 LAFAYETTE STREET, 212.239.6200

Playwright Tony Kushner, composer Jeanine Tesori, and director George C. Wolfe—all Obie winners—team up on a civil-rights-era musical about a black maid and the son of the Jewish family she works for.


DREAM ON MONKEY MOUNTAIN
October 2-26

CLASSICAL THEATER OF HARLEM, 645 ST. NICHOLAS AVENUE, 212.868.4444

The Classical Theater of Harlem won much acclaim for its revised revival of Genet's The Blacks last spring. Here's hoping they meet with equal success during this season's schedule, which kicks off with Derek Walcott's Dream on Monkey Mountain, starring Andre DeShields.


TO MY CHAGRIN
October 2-26

P.S.122, 150 FIRST AVENUE, 212.477.5288

Performer Peggy Shaw has three Obies and a mixed-race grandson. This piece is about the grandson.


LIFE INTERRUPTED
October 5-December 15

P.S.122, 150 FIRST AVENUE, 212.477.5288

Spalding Gray's newest monologue recounts his travails after a severe car crash while on vacation in Ireland. (Having just visited and ridden its roads, I'm surprised anyone gets out of Ireland without a smashup.)


TWO NOBLE KINSMEN
October 7-November 9

THE JOSEPH PAPP PUBLIC THEATER, 425 LAFAYETTE STREET, 212.239.6200

This season's Shakespeare offering at the Public is the rarely produced Two Noble Kinsmen, co-written, it's said, with John Fletcher. Perhaps the show will stir interest in a New York Fletcher Festival.


GONE MISSING
October 9-November 2

THE BELT THEATER, 336 WEST 37TH STREET, 212.613.0033

Welcome to the metaphysics of the missing—the Civilians' latest weaves text and tune into a musical documentary about things that have been lost.


THE LONG CHRISTMAS RIDE HOME
Opens October 9

THE VINEYARD THEATER, 108 EAST 15TH STREET, 212.353.0303

Mark Brokaw directs Paula Vogel's latest, which also features puppetry by Basil Twist. The family car spins out of control after Christmas dinner, "hurtling the three siblings into the future, where they confront the legacies of their childhood."


PRIVATE JOKES, PUBLIC PLACES
Opens October 10

THEATER AT THE CENTER FOR ARCHITECTURE, 538 LAGUARDIA PLACE, 212.239.6200

Oren Safdie's architecture-themed play had a successful run at La MaMa last season, and now returns for an Off-Broadway stint promising a humorous look at the machinations and egos of the architecture world, and a critical examination of postmodern culture.


BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA
October 14-17

BAM HARVEY THEATER, 651 FULTON STREET, BROOKLYN, 718.636.4100

Anne Bogart mounts Charles L. Mee's theatrical celebration of the artist Robert Rauschenberg—though no Rauschenberg character actually appears in the play. This SITI Company production is described as "a series of vignettes inspired by Rauschenberg's life that could also be seen as live versions of his works." Next up: waynegretzkycanada.


WILDER
October 14-November 9

PLAYWRIGHTS HORIZONS, 416 WEST 42ND STREET, 212.279.4200

Playwright Erin Cressida Wilson mates with composers and lyricists Mike Craver and Jack Herrick to produce a piece that's described as "an erotic chamber musical about a boy who hits puberty while living in a depression-era bordello." With Urinetown's John Cullum, in another genitalia-centered play.


THE VIOLET HOUR
Opens October 16

THE BILTMORE THEATRE, 261 WEST 47TH STREET, 212.239.6200

Richard Greenberg's latest is set in the New York publishing world of 1919. Its NYC premiere is also the debut of the renovated Biltmore Theatre, now under the aegis of the Manhattan Theatre Club. I'm half sad to see the building reopened—abandoned theaters have their own special beauty. Check out the derelict theaters of Detroit at forgottendetroit.com.


THE CARETAKER
Previews October 24, opens November 9

AMERICAN AIRLINES THEATRE, 227 WEST 42ND STREET, 212.719.1300

Patrick Stewart, Kyle MacLachlan, and Aiden Gillen star in this welcome revival of the Harold Pinter classic, in which two combative brothers admit a tramp to their flat, to ultimate ill effect.


THE HANGING MAN
November 4-9

BAM HARVEY THEATER, 651 FULTON STREET, 718.636.4100

The U.K.'s Improbable Theatre returns to NYC, with their own play about architecture. The Hanging Man tells the tale of "an architect who dreams of building a cathedral but ends up suspended between heaven and hell." Sorta like Bill Coelius.


THE COOK
Opens November 12

INTAR 53, 508 WEST 53RD STREET, 212.695.6134

Batista flees Cuba, Castro takes Havana, and the mistress of the mansion hightails it north to New York, leaving the house to the cook. Eduardo Machado's play, directed by Michael John Garces, looks at what happens when the mistress's daughter returns to Cuba to reclaim the home.


NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH
November 14-January 18

NEWHOUSE THEATER, LINCOLN CENTER, 151 WEST 65TH STREET, 212.239.6200

John Kani shared an Obie last season with Winston Ntshona for the revival of their apartheid-themed The Island. Kani's play Nothing but the Truth looks at the conflict between black South Africans who stayed to fight apartheid and the returning exiles. Kani also performs in the piece, which has the distinction of being Lincoln Center Theater's 100th production.


THE REGARD EVENING
December 3-January 25

THE SIGNATURE THEATER, 555 WEST 42ND STREET, 212.244.7529

Bill Irwin is this season's celebrated artist at the Signature. The Regard Evening is a revival of Irwin's The Regard of Flight, in which an everyman's worst nightmare comes true when he wakes up and finds himself onstage. The program will feature a sequel to the piece, set 20 years later.

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