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Still, Bloom would no doubt approve of Maxwell's unideological approach, which refuses to lasso the story into reductive pieties. If there's a political rationale to Maxwell's decision to stage Henry IV (say, the connection with George W. Bush sowing his wild oats before assuming his father's jingoistic mantle), he claims it's purely subconscious. After a lengthy pause, he admits that his interest is partly psychological, having something to do with the Falstaff-Hal surrogate father-son relationship, a bond he can relate to being the youngest of six kids, four of whom were old enough to be his parent. But rather than psychoanalyze, he'd prefer Shakespeare's words tell their own story.
"Rich likes to keep things simple," says Wilmes, whose work with Maxwell dates back to their Chicago-based Cook County Theater Department days. "Beyond the narrative, which is his main concern, he enjoys the playful dynamic between actors with experience and those with very little. The combination encourages us to rid ourselves of our actor baggage. We're forced to listen more closely to what the other is saying."
"I've been a Maxwell groupie for years," says BAM's executive producer Joe Melillo, who has made a rare institutional commitment to both develop and premiere this Henry IV, which has the honor of inaugurating the 2003 Next Wave Festival. "He's an original art maker who's not derivative of anyone."
"I'm still going to be me even though I'm directing Shakespeare," Maxwell assures. "As a director of my own plays I find that I'm subverting what I've written all the time. I guess I'm still caught between reverence and irreverence."