Arts & Leisure

“Henry IV” has modern parallels at SOC

ROBERT TRENDY as Prince Hal and Bodie Newcomb as Falstaff in Shakespeare Orange County’s production of “Henry IV, Part 1” (SOC photo).

By Thom deMartino

An embattled, bombastic, newly-minted leader, facing revolt from within and without, as some his earliest and truest supporters turn on him, in a conflict threatening to blossom into civil war…

No, you’re not watching CNN — but instead witnessing the historical tale of “Henry IV, Part I”, now playing at the Shakespeare Orange County’s Festival Amphitheater in Garden Grove.

John Shouse plays the English King Henry IV, who, having recently overthrown and taken the crown from his predecessor, Richard II, now faces rebellion in his own ranks. Former allies, such as the Percy family — including the fittingly-nicknamed “Hotspur,” Harry Percy (Michael Shenefelt), son of the Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy (Duane Thomas) and nephew to Thomas Percy (Gene Godwin), Earl of Worcester — now all turn on Henry, after his insults and slights against their family, despite their original support for his claim to the throne.

To make matters worse, the king’s son “Prince Hal” (Robert Tendy) appears to have little interest in following in his father’s footsteps, having taken to carousing in local taverns with his neer-do-well friends – including the boisterous braggadocio Falstaff (Bodie Newcomb), whose charismatic, amoral personality and tall tales endear him to the prince – much to the chagrin of the other nobles in his father’s court.

JOHN SHOUSE in the title role in “Henry IV-Part 1” (SOC photo).

As diplomacy fails, and hotter heads prevail, there’s a strong possibility that Henry’s reign may be cut short by the rebels… but can the young Prince Hal overcome his libertine impulses, to rise to the occasion and deny the naysayers, defending the throne of his father and king?

One of the most entertaining and fascinating aspects of “Henry IV” is how it illustrates an immortal, constant battle between generations: the expectations and presumptions of the elder, versus the immature – albeit often revolutionary – ideals of the younger. And while the king may be the title character, he is overshadowed by the more substantial characters of Prince Hal, Hotspur, and Falstaff – all played with relish by their various players, who dominate their respective scenes.

Tendy’s Prince Hal enthralls as the charismatic and rebellious young royal, seeking to find his place in the world, beyond the shadow of his father’s legacy; Shenefelt as Hotspur radiates the simmering fury of a man trying to do right by his family and his name while determined not to be trapped by his circumstance; and Newcomb’s Falstaff looms larger-than-life in every one of his scenes with his gregarious, comedic presence – bringing welcome levity to what could be a heavy historical drama.

With intrigue and betrayal, strategy, slapstick and swordplay, Shakespeare O.C.s production of “Henry IV, Part I” is an engrossing historical piece, certain to entertain and enthrall audiences – but only for a limited time, so catch it while you can.

“Henry IV.” Robert Tendy, Michael Shenefelt and Bodie Newcomb star in this classic Shakespearian drama. Now playing through August 26 at at the Festival Amphitheater, 12762 Main Street, Garden Grove. Call (714) 590-1575 or visit for ticketing information. Appropriate for all ages.

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