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Is It Possible to Produce an Apolitical Henry V?

Leon Russom in the Porters of Hellsgate's Henry V
Leon Russom in the Porters of Hellsgate's Henry V
Photo: Rob Cunliffe

As Shakespeare's titular bohemian-turned-monarch in the Porters of Hellsgate's tantalizing revival of Henry V, director-star Charles Pasternak embodies all the kingly qualities of amoral grace and savage ruthlessness under pressure - skills that the warring Henry applies to executing traitorous lords, wastrel former party pals and French POWs with equal aplomb.

As a director, Pasternak's muscular scene work and arresting stage compositions - along with his knack for making virtues of virtually zero production values - translates into a refreshing lack of formal airs and a translucency of language charged with an unflagging energy.

Standout turns in key roles by Leon Russom, Cynthia Beckert, Madeline Marie, Alex Parker and Jamey Hecht also demonstrate the director's able instinct for deploying the strongest talent where it is most effective.

Nevertheless, where other directors have famously staged the play as either a flag-waving glorification of war or its antithesis, a tract on the psychopathology of power, Pasternak's refusal to take any position at all deprives his staging's extraordinary parts of the tonal consistency that might have added up to a satisfyingly coherent whole.

Porters of Hellsgate, Whitmore Theatre, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; through March 29. (818) 325-2055, PortersHenryV.BrownPaperTickets.com.


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