The pinnacle of gender-bending in Shakespearian casting has to be Asta Nielsen’s turn as Hamlet in her 1921 Danish silent adaptation; Nielsen’s Hamlet, a woman disguised as a man, flirts relentlessly with Horatio even as she consigns her treacherous uncle to a fiery death. Next to the likes of Nielsen, Stockyard Theatre Company’s self-proclaimed “ferocious re-imagining” of Henry IV looks remarkably tame. After an initial, effective tableau of its largely female cast engaging in the usual Shakespearian swordplay and tankard-hoisting, the production settles into a faithful recounting of Prince Hal’s wayward youth. Within a few scenes, the nontraditional casting fades from view, which makes one kind of feminist point even as it suggests that Stockyards could have pushed its production a little farther. It also calls into question the choice of a male Falstaff: Eric Frederickson’s performance is jaunty enough, but the lapse in the production scheme remains unexplained and slightly disconcerting throughout. Elizabeth Styles is a nuanced Hal, able to switch easily between a W.-like drunken insouciance and a regal grandeur. But spotty performances in other prominent roles, like Stacie Barra’s peevish Hotspur and Mary Ross’s scolding Henry, sap the play of its potential conviction. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.