The theater season ends with a spectacular version of ‘Henry IV, Part 1’
In an instant everything changes: the dusky convivial sounds of an expectant audience give way to the blare of trumpets and the martial din of running boots as a troop of young men pours onto the stage to circle it, stamping their wooden staffs with a shout. Enter the king.
Thus Shakespeare Santa Cruz and its audience join an unbroken line of four centuries to perform and hear the tale of a crown taken in rebellion, nearly lost in pride, then won in just battle; of a wastrel who becomes worthy of his noble heritage, and of a dazzling hothead who burns too bright. Shakespeare’s most popular play during his lifetime, the story behind “Henry IV, Part 1” was as familiar to Elizabethans as the Kennedy story is to modern Americans. But for today’s theatergoers, Shakespeare’s “History Plays” are burdened with obscure references whose significance eludes us. As written, the opening scene of “Henry IV,” wherein the king and his confidants converse at length about incidents and characters we haven’t met and do not yet understand, threatens theatrical death upon arrival in the 21st century.