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King Me 

Richmond Shakespeare's “Henry V” proves sequels can improve on the originals.

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Anglophiles, history buffs and drama nerds rejoice! It is summer and the long-awaited Richmond Shakespeare production of “Henry V” has opened. For those of you not listed in the aforementioned categories of the anticipatory, the excitement is akin to the release of the next “Harry Potter” or “Twilight.” But unlike some sequels, this production is wonderful.

“Henry V,” the fourth installment of Shakespeare's tetralogy chronicling the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V, is the best of the four and Richmond Shakespeare has done it proud. Director James Alexander Bond has selected a stellar cast of local actors and directed deftly around the central figure, played by London-based actor Phillip James Brown, who returns to Richmond for the third summer to take his crown as King Henry (the sovereign formerly known as Prince Hal). The actors are planets that revolve around Brown's handsome sun. He makes as fine a warrior motivating his troops in the famous St. Crispin's Day speech as he makes a nervous beau courting Princess Katherine.

In sharp contrast to Brown's regal Henry is Bob Jones' equally savvy incarnation of the comedic Captain Fluellen. Jones makes the larger-than-life character believable and multifaceted, while including wild gestures and a hilarious overblown Welsh accent, making Shakespeare's jibe on Welshmen all the funnier.

Joseph Carlson masters his portrayal of Pistol this season, deftly executing comic bits and pouncing about the stage in Vanessa Passini's excellently choreographed fight scenes. He has matured as an actor in the past year, turning last year's great performance into an outstanding one this season.

This play has something for everyone: humor, battle scenes, romance and a winning underdog. “Henry V” is a fine evening of entertainment for anyone who can stay up past 10:30.  S
 
“Henry V” plays June 11- 28, Thursday-Sunday at 8 p.m. at Agecroft Hall. Tickets are $13-$25. Visit www.richmondshakespeare.com or call 866-BARD-TIX.

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