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Orlando Fringe review: Shakespeare’s Histories

May 16, 2014
Photo by Tisse Mllon, via

Photo by Tisse Mllon, via

The subtitle of Shakespeare’s Histories is Ten Epic Plays at a Breakneck Pace, and truer words have never been spoken, or rather, rotundly orated ‘pon the boards.

Clad in doublet, breeches and hose, Timothy Mooney goes HAM on the 10 history plays attributed to William Shakespeare (King John, Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 and 2, Henry V, Henry VI parts 1, 2 and 3, Richard III and Henry VIII) rapidly and deftly explicating the historical and geopolitical background of each play, then delivering choice bits of speeches from the relevant characters. His embodiment of figures from portly fun guy Falstaff to twisted creeper Richard III, from a horridly witchy Joan of Arc to a nastily lisping French Dauphin (oooh, that tennis-ball speech! It made my blood boil), is spookily impressive. Mooney has two settings: loud/fast and louder/faster. I don’t mean that to imply that he’s just shouting all over the place; his control over the material and his delivery of it is almost unbelievable. (Toward the end of the preview I attended, a patron behind me muttered, “That’s insane,” in awe.) Watching Shakespeare’s Histories is somewhat like attending one of the most entertaining college-level English lectures ever; this is a man imparting a torrent of knowledge upon you, and it’s up to you to drink from the firehose.

The only drawback to Mooney’s breakneck pace is that, well, if this were a college course, I’m not sure I’d pass the test. But maybe your comprehension skills exceed mine. The thing to do is just let yourself be carried along in the flow of language; a few minutes in you’ll find that you’re getting the gist, even if perhaps not taking in every word.

If you are not an active hater of Shakespeare or of Elizabethan language (and fie upon you, if you are), I’d have to call this a do-not-miss show. Mooney’s rendition of two well-known battlefield speeches from Henry V — from Act 3, “Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood … Cry God for Harry, England and St. George!” and the St. Crispin’s Day speech, from the next act (“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”) will stiffen your sinews and summon up your blood. What better way to leave a Fringe show than with the hair standing up on the back of your neck? And, program in hand, once more unto the breach, dear friends …


Timothy Mooney Repertory Theatre – Prospect Heights, IL
Length: 60
Venue: Blue
Price: $10 (+svc. Charge)
Disc.: FA | STU
Rating: 7+ – Strong Language

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