reviewed by Adam Crowe

This weekend sees the opening for Bard Fest 2019. A celebration of all things Shakespeare, BardFest features four different productions by different area companies. My particular assignment of this Fest was one of Shakespeare’s histories, Henry IV, Part One. (H4P1), performed on the main stage at the District Theater.

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz takes the title role in First Folio’s production of “Henry IV, Part 1”.

Adapted and directed by Glenn Dobbs, the founder of Bard Fest, H4P1 features a large and talented cast, tackling a difficult script. Shakespeare’s history plays are dense and reference quite a lot of action. Here, Dobbs has arranged his story to emphasize the trajectory of the future Henry V, even adding a bit of that play’s most famous speech. Prince Hal will eventually make his mark, but H4P1 shows us his mis-spent youth. In counterpoint, Hal’s rival Hotspur is fully grown and ready for action.

Falstaff (Matthew Socey) and Prince Hal (Matthew Walls) in a scene from First Folio’s production of “Henry IV, Part 1”

On opening night, the action was a bit clearer than the narrative. Both young Henrys are played by Matts – Matt Anderson as Hotspur and Matthew Walls as Prince Hal. Another Matthew, Matthew Socey, portrays the fabled John Falstaff, while another local radio celebrity, Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is the titular Henry IV. They are all ably supported by the large cast. And while the cast as a whole is somewhat uneven, all work hard to tell a complicated story.

A tavern scene with Prince Hal (Matthew Walls – center) from First Folio’s production of Henry IV, Part 1″.

On the technical side of things, the large set works well, offering the two worlds pulling at Prince Hal. Chris Plunkett’s lights and sound are effective, and Linda Findley Grow’s costumes add a nice touch of time and place.

Bard Fest offers a terrific opportunity to feed your Shakespeare hunger, and it only last two weekends, so make your plans now. Henry IV, Part One runs (in repertory) through October 27th, on the District Theater main stage. Other shows are being presented at the Indy Fringe Building and on the District’s second stage. Go to http://www.indybardfest.com for schedules and ticket information.

  • photos by Antonio Chapital