- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2008

comical and waggish in the beginning, but later growing in stature and sense of purpose.

“1 Henry IV” is the second of Shakespeare’s four-part history play cycle that begins with “Richard II” and is followed by “2 Henry IV” and “Henry V.” The cycle chronicles, with a free hand toward historical facts, the events that led up to the brief reign of England’s much-loved King Henry V.

“1 Henry IV” finds Henry Bollingbroke (Rick Foucheux, who makes Shakespeare’s words both immediate and conversational), the newly crowned king, once again at odds with his greatest rival, the Percy family, led by the impetuous young warmonger, Henry Percy, or Hotspur (David Graham Jones). Hotspur and his allies are brewing a rebellion, and Henry IV must gather his loyal men and troops around him. These faithful include his son, Prince Hal (Tom Story), who has been anything but a dutiful and valiant youth like Hotspur.

Prince Hal, on the other hand, has been whooping it up and then some, spending his days in drunkenness and dissolution with his roguish chums in Eastcheap - among them, the incomparable roisterer Falstaff (Delaney Williams, formerly Sgt. Jay Landsman of HBO’s “The Wire”).

To preserve the throne, Prince Hal has to put aside his boyish ways, gain the trust of his father, and embrace his fate. This transformation from bratty prince to future king is a breathtaking one. In order for it to work, we must feel affection toward Prince Hal in the beginning and a burgeoning sense of reverence at the end. Mr. Story is quite ingratiating as the devilish fair-haired child, reveling in his impudence and supremacy like a toddler with a bowl of ice cream on his head. His sense of mature command takes awhile to develop, but you do get a glimpse of the character’s requisite gravity in the final scenes.

As his competitor, Mr. Jones’ Hotspur is compulsively watchable as a hothead on a mission who is so hawkish he barely has time to properly love his equally strong-willed wife (the excellent Ellen Adair) - although the scenes between them sizzle. What distinguishes this performance is the way Mr. Jones brings out the self-deprecating humor in Hotspur’s martial one-sidedness.

In the same vein, Mr. Williams’ Falstaff brings out the familiar ribald and jovial aspects of the fat clown; the first one to poke fun at himself. His Falstaff, however, is tinged with the melancholy of a man who hides his intelligence and vulnerabilities behind a wall of flesh and vices. Rather than an outsized object of ridicule, Mr. Williams shows us a big man leading a small life and as a result, his Falstaff is greatly touching.

Impeccably cast and featuring a handful of outstanding performances, director Paul Mason Barnes has given us a visually handsome “Henry” that is equally compelling in the barroom and on the battlefield.

WHAT:”1 Henry IV,” by William Shakespeare

WHERE: Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 7 p.m. Sundays.Through Nov. 16.

TICKETS: $25 to $55

PHONE: 202/544-7077

WEB SITE: www.folger.edu/theatre

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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