Henry: What shall we hang? The holly, or each other?
Eleanor: How dear of you to let me out of jail!
Henry: It’s only for the holidays.
Who knew that dungeons, daggers, duplicity, and deception could be so much fun?
It’s all part of THE LION IN WINTER, James Goldman’s deliciously wicked accounting of the love-hate travails between England’s King Henry II and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the accompanying power struggle to name the next heir to the English throne. Comedic in tone, darkly dramatic in action, and filled to overflowing with Goldman’s razor-sharp wit and dialogue, the play has been an audience favorite for more than fifty years.
And it’s coming to the stage at Falcon Theatre. The production is the fourth of Falcon’s 2018-19 season, opening March 22.
Eleanor has been imprisoned for ten years, after raising an army against her husband Henry. But with Henry throwing a Christmas feast for the newly crowned King Philip II of France, the Plantagenets need to appear a happy family. Just for the occasion, Henry has released Eleanor from prison. Also in attendance are Henry’s three sons, each of whom is jockeying for position to be the named heir. The squabbling, backstabbing, and plotting that occurs among the brothers and the dangerous cat-and-mouse game played between Henry and Eleanor form the action of the story.
The actual historical events portrayed in the play take place in 1183, but Falcon director Tara Williams has moved the setting to modern times, all the way to 2019, in fact.
“The story may have taken place in the Middle Ages, but the major themes of the the piece, such as sibling rivalry, aging, death, ambition, and inheritance among royals, are as relevant now as they have ever been,” Ms. Williams says. “Royals today might be more outwardly civil to one another, and the scheming might be less bloody, but I suspect that the motivations and certainly the stakes haven’t lessened a bit since medieval times.”
The Falcon production features Allen R. Middleton as Henry, Tracy M. Schoster as Eleanor, Greg Mallios as Richard, Jared Earland as Geoffrey, Clay Winstead as John, Lexi Rigsby as Alais, and Dan Robertson as Philip.