On Stage: Henry IV

So I’m sitting on the couch watching “24: In 12 Hours” when The Wife comes to me and she says

“I have wonderful, wonderful news!”

“We won the lottery?”


“We won two lotteries?”

“No, silly. The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival is performing not one, but two plays this season! ‘Henry IV’ and ‘Henry V!’ Isn’t it exciting?”

“You and I have very different ideas of what exciting means.”

poster-henry-iv-v-webYes, it’s true. The Shakespeare Festival St. Louis took three of The Bard’s works — Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V — and smooshed them into two shows performed on alternate nights for three weeks.

Now, figuring out a way to attend one Shakespeare play in Forest Park in early May-mid June is challenge enough — the first issue is the weather and the fact that it’s an outdoor production; second, there’s the child-care issue; third, those first two issues are all the complication you need.

Still, we usually manage to find a free night and it usually turns out rain-free. The festival is doing both shows back-to-back on the next two Saturdays and while personally I would love nothing better than to sit in a lawn chair for 8 hours enjoying Shakespeare, there is no way The Son could last that long and no one would be willing to adult-sit with him for that long a stretch. (Having to find a sitter for you 23-year=old son: Reason 235 Why I Don’t Recommend Having A Child With Autism).

So it looks like we’re going to have to find a way to make two trips to Forest Park. We decided to make the first trip Sunday night despite weather forecasts of intermittent showers. We decided to rely on the lousy track record of St. Louis meteorologists and went anyway. They did not let us down. It was a beautiful night and since it was Sunday, not nearly as crowded as a Friday or Saturday night, when we usually go.

Since our going was a last-minute decision we did not have our usual selection of snacks and suitable dinner fare ready to go. We tossed what we had — soda, cheese, tortilla shells, a bottle of wine — into the cooler. We also didn’t have time to find a sitter so we took The Son along. I figured if he got bored I would sacrifice my Shakespeare time to walk with him. It’s not like I’d get lost in the plot if I was gone for 30 minutes — I get lost in the plot of Shakespeare plays from minute one.

Since it was a nice day, and in Forest Park, and free, we knew we’d have to arrive at least 90 minutes early to find a parking space and a decent place to set up our lawn chairs. To our surprise, parking was plentiful and we found a good spot on the lawn. Sunday night is the time to hit Shakespeare in the Park. I guess everyone is in church. It was still plenty crowded but not insanely crowded.

The Wife goes to check out the gift shop. I peruse the program. I start to read the synopsis and my eyes glaze over. I can’t even make sense of the synopsis, what am I going to do when the real thing starts? The Wife returns with a T-shirt and The Son and I go for our first walk of the night — back to the car to get the cooler. An hour before showtime we take a second walk, make our second visit to a porta-potty (the first was at Bark in the Park a few weeks ago) and then grab a hot dog and turkey sandwich at the concession stand. We eat at a park bench and by the time we’re done it’s almost showtime so we return to our chairs.

“Henry IV” is about…oh hell, how should I know? A king of England? Most likely. The show opens with several men standing on stage shouting. One is wearing a crown — I assume it’s Henry. I have no idea what they’re talking about. Cut to what I assume is a bar and there’s an amiable fat guy and he’s buddies with someone named Hal whom I later learn in the prince. I can kind of follow the scenes with Falstaff in them, which is good because he’s in most of the play. By the end I was wondering why it was called “Henry IV” and not “Falstaff.”

One Coke and several cups of kettle corn later and we’ve successfully survived Act 1. The Son and I make our third walk to the car to put a few things away and make another restroom break. Act 2 starts without us. I’m not too disappointed. Although it sounded like we missed some good fight scenes.

The show ended and I’m pleased to report that The Son made it through the whole show without incident. And he probably got as much out of it as I did. The actors were very good and the costumes were proper for the era (this wasn’t one of those shows where they turn Shakespeare into a Western or some such odd thing). The set was spartan but I guess if you’re doing two plays at once you don’t want to have to deal with complicated set pieces.

The Wife enjoyed it immensely and that, after all, is why we endure these things. Now we have to figure out how to fit “Henry V” into the next two weeks.

to be continued… 



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