Shakespeare’s seldom-produced history play (it seems likely that he co-authored it with another Elizabethan dramatist, John Fletcher) focuses on events about a half-century earlier than when the play was produced. If you watched the Showtime series The Tudors, you know about all of Henry VIII’s marital woes — driven by lust, ego and a desire for a male heir. In Shakespeare’s re-telling, we dig into the psyche of the King, his unhappy marriage to Katherine of Aragon and his controversial decision to set her aside and marry Anne Boleyn. His one surviving child with Anne (who was eventually executed on a trumped-up charge of adultery) became Elizabeth I, the Queen of England whose long reign fostered the blossoming of London theater, including Shakespeare’s troupe.
If you saw Cincinnati Shakespeare’s opening production this season, A Man for All Seasons, a 1961 play by Jonathan Bolt, you picked up one aspect of this true story, focused on Henry’s virtuous chancellor and advisor Sir Thomas More, who challenged the King’s decision to divorce, an act of defiance of the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope that led to the creation of the Church of England. In an interesting move, Cincy Shakes is using the same actors from A Man for All Seasons in Henry VIII. The production opens tonight at Cincy Shakes’ downtown theater on Race Street and continues through Feb. 5. Box Office: 513-381-2273, x1.
Over at Know Theatre of Cincinnati on Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine, you can see Joe Hutcheson reprise his well-received solo performance as Miss Magnolia Beaumont, a post-Civil War debutante who chokes to death at an 1860s barbecue then finds herself reincarnated to share a body of a contemporary gay man. It’s an odd and funny concept — her arguments with “Joe” about polite behavior and such can be laugh-out-loud funny — but the bottom line is a serious piece about tolerance and understanding. Magnolia is a memorable character, and Hutcheson “embodies” her without doing anything but changing posture and voice. This one is happening only Friday and Saturday evenings, so I suggest you call in advance to be sure tickets are available: 513-369-5669.
Finally, if you haven’t seen the wonderful revue Always, Patsy Cline at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park that’s been running since November, you have just one more week (it closes on Jan. 22). The show portrays a friendship between Cline and a “good old gal” who made her acquaintance at a Houston club and then exchanged letters in the years before her life ended in a 1963 plane crash. Louise is more than a narrator: Her spunky personality contrasts nicely to the dedicated but introverted performer, portrayed with astonishing vocal skill by Cincinnati native Carter Calvert. This one is definitely worth catching. Box office: 513-421-3888.
Stage Door is evolving a bit: Every Friday you can look for a rundown of shows worth seeing. If you want more up-to-the-minute news about local theaters, I invite you to follow Rick Pender’s Theater Stages & Scenes on Facebook.