Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Lesley Schisgall Currier
Marin Shakespeare Company
RUN: July 13 – August 12, 2012
RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars
(Opening Night, July 13, 2012 evening)
One of the things I admire about Marin Shakespeare is their choice to produce at least one of the more obscure Shakespeare plays every season—most memorably Henry IV Part 1. This year King John was the chosen experiment, and a successful one at that. After reading the play several times, I could see where it could be produced in a serious manner or quite as easily as a comedy. Before the opening, I hazarded a guess that Marin Shakespeare would choose the middle ground, and my theory was proved correct.
While King John had moments of side-splitting comedy, mostly supplied by snarky remarks of background characters during monologues, it also had haunting performances of true grief. Liz Sklar (Queen Constance) moved the audience nearly to tears as she portrayed a mother desperate to save her young son who had been taken captive and likely to be killed. She put Lady MacBeth to shame as her character slowly went mad with sorrow and regret.
The play was not all political shenanigans—there were several fight sequences choreographed quite well and involving the entire amphitheatre. Swordplay ranged up and down throughout, and one almost didn’t know where to look for fear of missing some of it. Forest Meadows is a fantastic place for feeling close to the action, and the fight sequences used the space to amplify that effect.
Within the audience were enthusiastic supporters for the various rivals claiming the throne of England. The overwhelming conclusion from the female members of the audience was that Erik MacRay as Philip the Bastard “was certainly eye candy!” and indeed with a dashing Errol Flynn look and several quite becoming costume changes it was difficult not to notice.
Scott Coopwood (King John) gave a tolerable performance—it was a trifle over-the-top but not to the point of being too distracting. He covered up several prop malfunctions with great ease and was not even phased by the fact the power went out briefly during the performance.
Overall it is a great play to bring the entire family to, especially the younger ones, and a fun rendition of a play that may not be in Marin County again for a long time. I would recommend seeing it, and also to read over a summary before going to follow all the political intrigue.