There is a play being set upon a stage, and on those planks, there is a fire that glows hot and unyielding. The play is Henry V and it is the final show for Cape Fear Regional Theatre Artistic Director Tom Quaintance who is moving on to the position of artistic director at the Virginia Stage Company. The show, directed by Quaintance, delivers a lesson that is in many ways recognizable in this community - no matter how much we might say we do not understand the words and stories that were penned and delivered with such stylistic flair by William Shakespeare.
The story of war, leadership, love and brotherhood that is so prevalent and understood in our military community can be visualized and appreciated in this production. Montgomery Sutton, who plays Henry, rallies and rouses not only his army on stage, but also his army of an audience.
On opening night, Sutton delivered the lines of the great Henry with an ease and attitude that bring to mind many great leaders; for that is what Henry was, a fierce leader. He led by example. He physically situated himself amongst his troops, as opposed to the French army he was fighting against whose leaders were shouting out commands from the front lines with the soldiers behind them. Great battles have been led not by leaders who charge by the front, but by leaders who are willing to get their hands dirty and fight side by side with their brothers. Sutton shows us this side of Henry with bombastic servitude that shakes the stage to its foundations.
The following lines from the play were given by Sutton in almost religious fervor: “That he which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart; his passport shall be made and crowns for convoy put into his purse. We would not die in that man’s company that fears his fellowship to die with us.” When delivered with such passion, can there be a more inspirational war-cry than this?
Now also bring in the hair-raising performances of the ensemble cast that marches and fights with Henry in this show and you are set to see the battle of ages on the stage.
There were actors playing multiple characters with great style and ease. Local actors Michael Carney, John Doerner, Denver McCullough and Robyne Parrish did outstanding work. Actor Josh Innerst filled the house with moments of intensity. Jeremy Fiebig plays the narrator who is adeptly named “Chorus.” Fiebig played well by setting up certain scenes that would settle better in our minds and stomachs with his eloquant delivery of the plays verses.
Wallis Quaintance played the queen, Katharine, beautifully. Striking the stage with startling presence and delivering her lines in her exquisite French, we come to understand her relationship with Henry. There are comedic twists at many moments in this play that Shakespeare has planted, and they bloom largely when delivered well in this cast.
Quaintance stretched the set on the stage all the way to the very back-wall of the theatre. Seasoned theatre-goers to CFRT will appreciate the ingenious work of the artistic staff. The icing on the cake is the fact that there are seats on the stage for audience attendees to sit in for this production ... talk about being intimate with the actors.
Get ready to dig your heels into the floor like the hounds that are leashed in at the heels of Henry. Quaintance asks us to listen like in prayer and to judge this play. It only then seems fitting to leave the readers with the most rousing and spiritual words in the play the war-like Henry gives us. I know these words have been used in a motivational speech or two by great leaders, as we see, Henry was giving his troops the intestinal fortitude that is far greater than the meek will ever know. “ From this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remember’d; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he today that shed his blood with me shall be my brother.”
Henry V plays until Nov. 13 at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre. It is truly the inspirational show this season that will motivate you to keep coming back to find the strength to carry on in all the daily wars we wage.