News Column

Clever, nasty royals in Dramaworks' 'Lion In Winter'; Modern audiences will be able to relate to the banter.

December 6, 2013

YellowBrix

Families that dread coming together for the holidays can watch aroyal version of themselves in "The Lion in Winter," openingtonight at Palm Beach Dramaworks.

It is playwright James Goldman's fictional view of the Plantagenets-- King Henry II, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and their threesquabbling sons -- gathered at Chinon in 1183 to determine who willsucceed aging Henry on the British throne.

Chances are there will be few royals in the audience, buttheatergoers will still probably identify with this family. "I betthere'll be a lot of people out there who go, 'Gee, that's what mywife sounds like,'~HOA~128~128~" says C. David Johnson, who makeshis Dramaworks' debut as Henry. "They're going to relate toproblems with their kids. There's so much of this that Goldman sortof reduced to a middle class kind of existence. Using the same kindof problems that exist for a modern family, he transposes to thisroyal family, with huge political consequences. The stakes are veryhigh."

"I think part of what's so appealing to an audience is the wit,"adds Tod Randolph (Eleanor), also a Dramaworks first-timer. "All ofthe members of this family are highly intelligent and think veryquickly on their feet. It's not just nasty, but it's cleverlynasty, and I think that's a huge part of its appeal."

Although based in fact, "The Lion in Winter" takes huge dramaticliberties, as Goldman blithely inserted anachronisms andcontemporary language. "It draws from little pieces of history andthe reality of the main characters, but in fact there was never aChristmas court at Chinon, there is no celebration of Christmas in1183," says Johnson. "And because it's written in kind of a moderncontext, you can almost play it like a '(Who's Afraid of) VirginiaWoolf.'

"The way that Goldman portrays Henry, the way he reacts to hischildren, the way he makes decisions, this is a guy who is Type A.He's been a great soldier and he became king of England at 21. He'salways had it his way."

His way, in this case, is locking Eleanor away for the past decade,only letting her out when it fits his needs. Their marriage, saysRandolph, "was certainly a political matter first and foremost.There's all the evidence in the world that they were passionatelyattracted to each other and there was love, at least in the firstfew years. And I say deep down underneath all the treachery there'sa lot of love that is not expressed. There's love and the rejectionof love and the yearning for love that is denied."

And who doesn't enjoy watching a battle royal at holiday time? "Iwas flipping through the television channels the other night and'Survivor' was on," says Johnson. "And I was thinking how muchpeople love to see that kind of Machiavellian machinations, behindthe scenes, what people do behind each other's backs. It's peoplebehaving badly. And behind all that, I think there is great heartand great love and passion."

Or maybe you'd prefer ... funny nuns this holiday season. BocaRaton's Showtime Performing Arts Theatre can provide them with itsproduction of the international comedy hit, "Nunsense."

Perhaps you have already seen this broadly comic show about afundraiser by the Little Sisters of Hoboken to help the nuns bury afew of their order who were accidentally poisoned by the conventcook.

But writer-creator Dan Goggin has provided Showtime with someupdated jokes, additional lyrics, two new musical arrangements anda new song, so now you have to see the show again. Performancescontinue through Dec. 15.

Call 561-394-2626 for tickets.

Or maybe a radio play ... of a holiday movie classic. The Theatreat Arts Garage is serving up the second installment of its RadioTheatre series Thursday. It is a reading of "It's a WonderfulLife," the tale of Everyman George Bailey, an angel wannabe namedClarence and a caring small town savings and loan. Complete withlive special effects.

Tickets are $15-$20, available by calling 561-450-6357.

Or maybe a holiday visit ... with theater veteran and Palm BeacherSally Ann Howes. Palm Beach Dramaworks is inaugurating itsDramalogue series of theater talks this Tuesday afternoon andevening at 2 and 7 p.m., with "Our Fair Lady: Sally Ann Howes,"whose career ranges from playing Eliza Dolittle in "My Fair Lady"on Broadway to starring opposite a flying car in the movie "ChittyChitty Bang Bang." She will be interviewed on the Dramaworks stageby local arts maven Lee Wolf. Tickets are $20, obtained by callingthe box office at 561-514-4042.

IF YOU GO

"THE LION IN WINTER"

Where: Palm Beach Dramaworks, 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach

When: Through Jan. 5

Tickets: $60.

Call: 561-514-4042

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