SPRING 2017: Henry V



February 18 – April 1, 2017
At City Lit Theater: 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago
(on the 2nd Floor of the Edgewater Presbyterian Church)

Director: Hayley Rice
Violence Design: Kim Fukawa*

Previews: 2/18 at 8:00pm; 2/19 at 3:00pm; 2/24 at 8:00pm; 2/25 at 8:00pm; 2/26 at 3:00pm
Press Opening: Monday, 2/27 at 8:00pm
Closing Night: Saturday, 4/1 at 8:00pm
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 3:00pm
AUDIENCE ALERT: This production uses realistic staged violence in the telling of the story.
RUN TIME: 2 hours, 30 minutes


* denotes BWBTC Ensemble Member


“BEST BET” 3/8/17
The all-female Babes With Blades Theatre Company delivers a smart, stirring rendition of Shakespeare’s historical drama about England’s Henry V…. Hayley Rice’s bare-bones, low-budget, high-energy staging (with fight choreography by Kim Fukawa) captures the juxtaposition of rousing action, rough comedy, and poetic philosophizing that characterizes this great play…. Diana Coates is a charismatic, commanding Henry, ably supported by a ten-woman ensemble in multiple roles (their lightning-fast costume changes are as impressive as their wordplay and swordplay). Alison Vodnoy Wolf, a Chicago theater newcomer recently arrived from Cincinnati, is especially charming as Henry’s French bride, Catherine of Valois, in the comic bilingual courtship scene that climaxes the play. –Chicago Reader
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! For audiences attending this Babes With Blades Theatre Company production, Shakespeare’s panoramic view of international conflict – seen from the perspective of foot soldiers, field officers and generals alike – deliver abundant thrills and excitement, along with a few laughs at the expense of the soon-to-be-defeated French…. Surrounded by a unigender cast speaking almost exclusively in treble key, (Diana Coates’) contralto vocal range and nuanced text interpretation inspire confidence and charisma with every word. War may be brutal – as Kim Fukawa’s combat choreography never flinches from reminding us – but that doesn’t stop us rallying behind a hero endowed with so much of the right stuff. –Windy City Times
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Women wield knives and swords, and even a minor slap is both exciting and a natural unfolding of events. Kim Fukawa’s violence design is both thoughtful and well-executed, fitting perfectly into the story of a young monarch with everything to prove.
Director Hayley Rice stages Henry V as a play-within-a-play at an all-girls school, with the Chorus in the form of an enthusiastic teacher (Chelsea Rolfes) armed with an overhead projector. The effect is a fun twist, and the gimmick is used just enough to work well within the context of the story but never overwhelms. Both Elyse Balogh’s scenic design and Rachel Sypniewski’s costumes contribute to the school play effect while adding a touch of history-lesson accuracy. Dialect coach Carrie Hardin deserves kudos for high-quality British and French accents. The ensemble cast is superb: most play multiple roles while maintaining excellent diction and top-notch physicality. Standouts include Rolfes’ happy, high-strung instructor; violence designer Fukawa, sporting a sexy eye patch; and the consistently steadfast Gaby Labotka. Diana Coates shines in the title role, exuding presence and authority. Her Henry V is at once courageous and powerful, and tentative and vulnerable, ready in body but not necessarily in spirit to lead a country on the verge of revolution.
Now more than ever, representation of marginalized voices is essential, as is the role of the arts in challenging old-school perspectives and ideals. Our current political climate seeks to reclaim an America where greatness meant segregation of anyone who’s remotely different (e.g. not a straight, cisgender white male), and the new majority of society seeks to rebel. If you’re looking to flip the script and contribute to a storefront theater, see Babes With Blades’ Henry V. – Chicago Theater Beat
This all-female version of Shakespeare’s “Henry V” is a perfect example of what this company does so well…. I was surprised by how fast I forgot the gender of the actors before me; almost as though it didn’t matter (which, of course, it doesn’t).
Diana Coates plays Henry V and it is surprising to no one that she owns the role. Physical and intellectual, she imbues Henry with enough swagger to make him believable as a young untested monarch half-bluffing his way through and enough humility for us to easily believe he knows what he is asking of his men, and that is everything…. Morgan Manasa’s turn as the garrulous Welshman Fluellen and Delia Ford as the steady Exeter were both memorable.
Overall, this show was remarkably well-cast…. Switching from a French King (Catherine Dvorak) to the traitorous Pistol or from a school marm incarnation of the Chorus (Chelsea Rolfes) to French handmaid to a French Soldier would be a neat trick for any actor…. But this cast made it look easy and truly gave everything to each role. That is not to mention the sword-wielding, punch-throwing, thrust and parry that was going in during the frequent battles, skirmishes, and soldiering. –EDGE Media Network
I think that Diana Coates did a great job with the role of Henry…. Even though the character is not usually a feminist at all, she made it seem very feminist. Because everyone seems to doubt Henry, that he can do the job well, it reminds me a lot of the ways that women in power are portrayed or thought of as weaker than men…. I think the St. Crispin’s Day speech should be turned into a song so people can jog to it. I had heard it before, but never so well done. It was so motivational…. I think Diana was very present the whole time and, whenever anyone else was talking, she seemed to be listening, which I think is very very important for actors. It is really great when you see an actor who is intriguing but also intrigued.
I thought that the Princess Katherine (Alison Vodnoy Wolf) and her lady-in-waiting Alice (Chelsea Rolfes) had the best comic-relief scenes…. They are giggling but also feeling bad for giggling. It reminds me of me and my friends. Katherine and Alice seem to be very close and I think this is a very cute relationship. I really hope Alice gets to stay with Katherine when she moves in with Henry. I thought this was a good break from the fighting to see a normal relationship that wasn’t full of conflict.
I thought that the fights (designed by Kim Fukawa, assisted by Gaby Labotka) were really cool. They seemed really real and fluid. I thought the big battle near the end was awesome. I loved how it included all the actors and it all seemed very up close and real, especially in a small space.
People who would like this show are people who like awesome stage combat, motivational speeches, and accidentally swearing. I think this was a really fun show. It made me see a different side of Henry that I liked. I think people who have and haven’t seen Henry V can all learn a lot from this production and enjoy it. –Ada Grey Reviews for You
I cannot remember the last time I saw a Shakespeare play where so many actors knew what they were saying and why they were saying it…. For a company so dedicated to stage violence to take the time to understand verse… is doubly worthy of admiration. I found no dramaturge or verse coach listed in the show’s program, so I assume this accomplishment rested largely on the shoulders of director Hayley Rice (and the actors, of course), to whom I am immensely grateful.
…Each set piece is simple, beautiful, and internally consistent (thanks to designer Elyse Balogh), while contrasting with the outer-most set that established the frame tale of this production.
(Rachel) Sypniewski’s costumes are well executed and representative throughout: the usual red-versus-blue is established without being obnoxious or overwhelming, rank is clearly indicated by fabric and color (or lack of color), and Hal’s unusually dark costume palette, virtually bereft of gold, perhaps helps to highlight the rare instances of evil that appear in one of Shakespeare’s most populist plays.
Chelsea Rolfes’ Chorus immediately sets a high bar with clear vocal quality and energized delivery, providing strong motivation (or at least strong impulses) for every clause she speaks. This bar proved to be met and occasionally exceeded by virtually all actors.
In the title role, Diana Coates carries this play as a giant among giants without flagging or failing in her commitment and energy. With a Branaugh-esque veneer of confidence (not necessarily a bad thing), combined with a cleverness and awareness found in more accessible embodiments of Hamlet, Coates powers through this juggernaut of a role with apparent ease and facility, punching or shrugging as necessary and without once even stumbling under the responsibility.
Although every actor in this production is worthy of praise, special mention goes to Alison Vodnoy Wolf and Samantha Kaufman. Wolf’s diverse characterizations were particularly strong, altering her centering, pacing, and direction of energy to create starkly contrasting characters. Kaufman’s Dauphin was delightfully French and smarmily, smoothly amusing in his confidence, making smart use of the “Frenchness” that underpins this play, without relying on the cliches of emasculation that so frequently color Shakespeare’s Dauphins.
…Kim Fukawa’s violence is dynamically compelling both in the grand alarums and in its more intimate moments. Staged violence is (what) Babes With Blades does, and Hal’s war did not disappoint. – Jared McDaris, The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Company

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