What the Critics said:
“Marin Shakespeare Company believes its current production of ‘King John’ is the first time the play has been staged in Marin County….
Shakespeare didn't bother with period dress in his plays, so managing director Lesley Schisgall Currier's staging strives to evoke his era rather than John's own. Mark Robinson's spacious set is reminiscent of a Tudor house, and Abra Berman's bright and attractive costumes are accordingly more Renaissance than Medieval, with the women's wide hoop skirts battling the wind. That also may account for the anachronistic sound of gunfire in battle scenes. Richard Squeri's lively, slowed-down swordfights take place all around and behind the audience, sometimes at the expense of anything happening onstage.
Scott Coopwood is riveting in the title role, making John's wartime bravado as believable as his duplicity and backpedaling. The scene in which he hems and haws to a loyal soldier (a feelingly conflicted James Hiser) before blurting out that he'd like his young rival killed is a tour de force.
Equally prominent is King Richard's illegitimate son Philip Faulconbridge, usually referred to simply as ‘Bastard’ in the script. A charming rogue who's a better man than most, he's played by Erik MacRay with comedic flair and impish swagger….
Currier lingers lovingly on the comedic elements of the play, such as Alexander Lenarsky's peevish and narcissistic Dauphin, Brandon Mears' swishy Chatillon, and Stephen Muterspaugh's wry stares at the audience as an arrogant and often incomprehensible Cardinal, whom sound designer Brendan Aanes accompanies with bombastic organ music….
There's even a capering dance for the curtain call, which might be an odd choice for a historical drama, but it helps make the play's lackluster ending less conspicuous. It may even help you stop wondering when Robin Hood will show up to save the day.”
- Sam Hurwitt, Marin IJ
"’John’ is tough to pull off…making it a bold choice to open not only the season but also the improved facilities at Forest Meadows Amphitheater. A more spacious outdoor lobby, new restrooms, easier parking and an opened-up grand view of Mount Tamalpais await the visitor. As does the rare chance to see one of Shakespeare's least-produced plays…
Director Lesley Schisgall Currier's…chosen (unnecessarily) to underline the play's patriotism by having John's French foes flounce about and using broad French and Italian accents, which distracts from what's being said. That aside, though, she gives ‘John’ a reasonably full and coherent staging.”
- Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle
"Marin Shakes breathes some life into DOA 'King John'....Scott Coopwood excels in the title role, particularly in scenes that reveal his (and others') internal conflicts...Erik MacRay lifts the production with his energy and humor as Philip Faulconbridge, bastard son of one of the king's aristocratic allies. Barry Kraft is suitably dignified in the underwritten role of the French King Philip."
- Charles Brousse, Pacific Sun
“Under Currier’s direction and thanks to her talented, energetic cast the issues facing the characters become startlingly contemporary: the havoc wreaked by rampant desire for power and wealth….
Scott Coopwood as the ambitious but also conscience-ridden king is a master of Shakespearean acting. His shaven head as gleaming as his jewel-studded crown, he reasons, sneers, smirks, shouts, becomes nearly apoplectic with rage, then shrinks into himself and deflates like a punctured tire when his jig appears to be up near the end of Act Two. It’s an impressive, energetic performance….
Currier has a muscular directing style. Every opportunity is milked for some stage business or activity, whether it’s swaggering, pacing back and forth, scratching a head, stretching, having a nervous tick, a fidget — anything to make the people onstage seem real. It works. You sense urgency, that things are really happening fast, that many of these things will be tragic….
Unexpected humor crops up in the character of Pandulph, the pompous cardinal of Rome and the pope’s representative. Played with poker face or sneer by Stephen Muterspaugh, he seemed like a priest cooked up by Monty Python, with a pompous, r-rolling Italian accent as thick as truffled lasagna.
More humor is found in the pitch-perfect foppish, mincing performance of Alexander Lenarsky as the Dauphin of France, claimant to the English throne and King John’s most hated rival. His legs as scrawny as a plucked quail, Lenarsky pirouettes and postures around the stage in a parody of the worst aspects of entitlement.
The heartstrings are tugged by young Samuel Berston as the doomed Prince Arthur. His please-spare-my-life speech to a burly jailer is one of the most affecting in the production.”
- Leslie Harlib, Marinscope