It isn’t easy being King Henry IV, the historical royal who stars in the eponymously named Shakespearean play, and that holds true these days as well, with Jerusalem’s Theater in the Rough set to stage an outdoor production of “Henry IV: In Motion” in Bloomfield Gardens.
With free English performances on August 11, 12, 15, 16, 18, 19, 22, 23 and 24 and a preview performance on Monday, August 9, the community theater group recovered from canceling last year’s production, and hopes the show will go on this year, despite the sense of an impending coronavirus lockdown.
“We’re a little traumatized from last year,” said Natan Skop, co-founder and producer of Theater in the Rough, now in its tenth year. The theater group began rehearsals last summer for the same play, but ended up canceling during the second wave of COVID-19, when it was less clear how to safely hold outdoor events.
This summer, audience members must reserve their spots in advance on the Theater in the Rough website in accordance with COVID-19 recommendations.
The two-hour performance on the lawns of Bloomfield Gardens revolves around King Henry IV on the throne, his misbehaving son and a rebellion in the works. It’s a sharp and well-acted production, relevant for audience members of all ages, with lively portraits of family strife and rebellion.
There are the typical Shakespearean characters, including Falstaff who sits in a tavern all day; Hotspur, a wound-up warrior with some possible post-traumatic stress disorder; and the prince, played by Skop, who parties too much and then does an abrupt turn and fights in battle, ultimately becoming King Henry V.
“You wonder, ‘How authentic is this reformation? Is he a little bit out of control and how do you get that nuance across to the audience in the right way?'” said Skop.
The play is historical, but comical as well, said Skop, with strong monologues and an interesting mix of scenes that lead into some heavy drama between father and son. The underlying history of the play revolves around King Henry IV, who is guilt-stricken after stealing the throne himself from the dubiously placed previous king.
This Theater in the Rough production features 10 actors, immigrants and native-born Israelis, from the Jerusalem area and beyond. The community theater group recast many of the actors who had auditioned in 2020.
The production features original music by Yaar Drori, a Theater in the Rough actor who, using a guitar, drum and melodica, created musical numbers that underscore various characters’ monologues and moments on stage.
The community theater group is holding a special accessible performance, with details listed on the theater’s website.