Shakespeare Santa Cruz's 'Henry V' opens Aug. 9.

Shakespeare Santa Cruz's 'Henry V' opens Aug. 9.

Inviting us back to the Glen for the concluding drama in Shakespeare’s turbulent “Henriad” trilogy, Shakespeare Santa Cruz unveils Henry V this weekend. Onto the handsomely expanded outdoor stage and seating area, a “happy few” seasoned players will present the Bard’s powerful saga of young Prince Hal transformed into the heroic King of England. After the death of his father, the maverick prince must grasp the reins of leadership. Shakespeare’s mesmerizing play follows the young king through a momentous battle he seems destined to lose, culminating in triumph on the field of Agincourt. With this conquest, Henry takes France along with a French princess as his Queen. Powered by Henry’s bravery and military wiles, the finale of the three-play drama transforms the king into the stuff of inspirational legend.

Returning to play Henry this season is Charles Pasternak, whose indelible portrayal last year of Prince Hal in Henry IV, Part II balanced the future king’s youthful excesses with his emerging gifts for leadership. Also with the festival this season is stalwart veteran V Craig Heidenreich, who last season played the aging King Henry IV, Hal’s father. This time, Heidenreich plays multiple roles, including King Charles of France and the Archbishop of Canterbury. SSC Artistic Director Marco Barricelli returns to the stage this season in the critical role of the Chorus, as well as Duke of Burgundy. Versatile festival favorite Mike Ryan returns as Henry’s uncle the Duke of Exeter. Henry’s brothers the Duke of Gloucester and Duke of Bedford are played by Conor Murphy and Christopher Costanza, respectively. Beatrice Basso plays Katharine, princess of France.

The scene Shakespeare wrote for the wooing of the French princess by the young English king—neither of whom spoke the other’s language—remains one of the cleverest weavings of puns and malapropisms ever set to language. Any language.

As is the repertory custom at Shakespeare Santa Cruz, there are many doublings of roles in Henry V, whose cast can also be seen doubled yet again as dramatic personae in Taming of the Shrew.

Henry V has it all: sabotage, innuendo, bloody battlefields, ribald bar scenes, courtship and conquest. Threaded through all of this is a memorable series of literary ethnic jokes at the expense of England’s perennial enemies—the Scots and Irish—and the linguistically incomprehensible Welsh. A trio of barflies, former brothers in lowlife of Sir John Falstaff—Pistol, Nym and Bardolph—will strew the stage with some of Shakespeare’s most ingenious, and lavish, expletives and insults.

In short, plan to be among the happy few who will fit in the Festival Glen to feast on the upcoming Henry V.  Tempting pre-performance and intermission catering is provided by Hoffman’s, and libations are also available at the Festival’s full bar.

‘Henry V’ runs from Aug. 9 – Sep. 1 in UCSC’s Festival Glen.