HAWAII SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
Todd Coolidge plays King John, with Maryann Peterson as Lady Blanche, at the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival.
Gripping encounter fuels ‘John’
Hubert de Burgh, an English nobleman of impeccable honor, receives instructions from King John that the king's sworn enemy, who happens to be in Hubert's custody, is to be blinded with a hot iron, lest John's kingdom be overthrown.
Continues its run at 7:30 tonight and tomorrow and 3:30 p.m. Sunday as part of the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival at the ARTS at Marks Garage. Tickets are $14 and $18. Call 550-8457 or visit www.honoluluboxoffice.com.
The prisoner is John's young nephew Arthur, not yet in his teens, and he begs a favor. If he is to be mutilated in such a hideous way, let it done by Hubert, a trusted friend, and not by common soldiers. Grant me this, Arthur says, and I won't resist.
The soldiers, glad to be spared such a task, quickly take their leave, but when the moment comes, the boy loses his nerve and screams for mercy. Hubert is torn between the conflicting demands of duty and honor. Can he serve a man who would order him to do this?
The Hawaii Shakespeare Festival's production of "King John," directed by festival co-founder Tony Pisculli, makes superb theater of this slice of 13th-century English history.
Savada Gilmore (Hubert) and Michelle Raboteau (Arthur) play out that heart-rending confrontation with a well-measured intensity that makes it the most horrifying scene I've seen in 16 years of reviewing local theater.
Raboteau gives a Po'okela Award-worthy portrayal of a child in extremis. Gilmore's features express Hubert's torment with a mute eloquence that exceeds even his assured delivery of Shakespeare's dialogue. He performs with equal effectiveness in the scenes where Hubert engages in high-stakes power politics with King John.
Todd Coolidge (King John) portrays the oft-maligned monarch as a brave albeit treacherous ruler. In one key scene John weasels out of any personal responsibility for Arthur's mistreatment -- putting the blame entirely on Hubert for allegedly exceeding his orders. In another he speaks with equal duplicity to win back Hubert's loyalty.
Rob Duval (The Bastard) is also impressive with his performance as John's illegitimate nephew and loyal supporter. Duval provides much of the comic content when the Bastard, now known as Sir Richard, taunts his uncle's enemies.
Shakespeare Fest veteran Gerard Altwies (King Phillip) and Alvin Chan (Louis, the Dauphin) give strong supporting performances. Altwies is excellent in a scene where Phillip is threatened with excommunication if he honors an advantageous alliance with John. Chan is well matched with Maryann Peterson (Lady Blanche) as a royal couple whose marriage is jeopardized by the political maneuvering of others.
Brooke Jones (Lady Constance) personifies the adage "Hell hath no fury ..." as Arthur's mother. Lady Constance goes ballistic when John and Phillip agree to set aside Arthur's claims for their mutual benefit. Lisa Nilsen (Queen Eleanor) is also well worth watching as the ruthless matriarch of the dysfunctional family.
Janine Myers (lighting) and the musicians of the Damned Spot Drums share credit for the ominous ambience that overshadows much of the action. And, although the cast was a bit tentative in executing Pisculli's fight choreography on opening night, that's to be expected when sword-wielding lords and ladies do battle in a space as intimate as Marks Garage.
Pisculli's potentially problematic cross-gender casting choices also pay off. Casting the petite Raboteau as Arthur accentuates the boy's helplessness. Betty Burdick also proves an acceptable choice as the venomous asexual male villain.