A Play for All Seasons
The Lantern Theater Company
A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt
Plays & Players Theater, Philadelphia
Through April 10
The Lantern Theater Company returned to live performances with a gorgeous revival of Robert Bolt’s ‘A Man For All Seasons.’ Peter DeLaurier directs a stellar ensemble cast led by FrankX as Sir Thomas More, the uncompromisable nobleman who navigates the treacherous minefield of the court of Henry VIII.
As good as the 1966 movie starring British star Paul Scofield and directed by Fred Zinnemann remains, many of Bolt’s soliloquies are condensed or cut completely. And it is terrific to hear a full rendering of Bolt’s script on played out on the Lantern stage.
For contemporary classical actors it presents a gallery of rich characters and Bolt’s riveting dialogue cycles DeLaurier’s sharp and sensitive direction illuminates every angle of this brilliant script.
It is not only a thrilling depiction of political hubris, but about ideas conscience in a corrupt world, as timely today as it was in the 60s or the Tudor court of the 1600s,’ in other words, it resonates in this or any other season.
The story unfolds at Thomas More’s estate and the private world he has built for his wife and his daughter, revered by King Henry VIII, but maintaining his political distance from scabrous court intrigue.
When Henry VIII seeks a divorce from Catherine of Spain because she has borne him no son and heir and is now in love with Anne Boleyn who he knows will bear him sons, he orders Cardinal Wolsey to get Sir Thomas More to officially support him.
Cardinal Wolsey summons Sir Thomas in the middle of the night, but his veiled threats are to no avail, as More dances around the arguments and stands on his principals.
Henry then visits More and his family at their estate. He matches wits with Thomas, complimenting and stroking his ego, but gets nowhere, so hurls some veiled threats that More doesn’t take seriously. When Wolsey dies, Henry sicks the ruthless Cromwell to find dirt on More, to charge him with corruption. ON manufactured evidence More loses everything and is jailed.
FrankX gives an electrifying, revelatory performance. It adds to his gallery of consummate performances from Shakespeare to Beckett that make him one of Philly’s most versatile actors of classic repertory.
Jake Blouch’s Henry VIII is full of fire, humor, and mystery and as the awkward journeyman Thomas, humbly courting Lady Margaret. Scott Greer is the ‘Common Man’ portraying multiple subservient roles with cynical swagger. Gregory Isaac also in multiple roles first as the wryly humorless Cardinal Wolsey trying to match wits with More, the as Thomas the awkward suitor to Lady Margaret and as the goateed, furtive diplomat Chapuys jockeying for court power by playing both ends against the political middle.
Bolt gives Lady Alice and Margaret a lot of heavy lifting from the sidelines of much of the dramatic action but Leah Brockman is as Lady Margaret and Elizabeth Scallen as Lady Alice captivate throughout.
Even though Margaret is not groomed to be a court decoration or married off to nobility, More is sternly against her betrothal to Thomas, whose agnosticism More considers heretical, even as he admires the young man’s convictions. Scallen’s Alice is heartbreaking as the wife knows the machinations of the court and what harms it can do her family.
Anthony Lawton is terrific as the snarlingly ambitious Cromwell . Benjamin Brown equally dynamic as More’s earnest compatriot, who tries to save him from being too noble, lest he end up in the tower. .Paul Harrold, in his first role as the court climbing Richard Rich is convincing as the malleable rube who can’t resist overriding his conscience for position.
Bolt’s brilliant script full of drama, tenderness, intrigue, and comedy elements that director Peter DeLaurier balances with tight, illuminating direction.
Lantern’s Fine production team make the most of Plays & Players proscenium theater. The production design by James Pyne, of a two-tiered stairwell gallery, in tandem with Lilly Fosner’s shadowy lighting design conjures gothic atmospherics. Add to that Chris Collucci’s period music adds Tudor noir soundscapes. And Kelly Meyer’s costume design with lush robes, gowns, accoutrement is dazzling court couture.