Adapted and directed by Guillermo Cienfuegos, Pacific Resident Theatre's reboot of Henry V strips Shakespeare's romanticized spectacle of war down to its bare essentials.
Staged in a railroad-wide theater, the opening unfolds disconcertingly like a rehearsal, with actors lounging about, joking, stretching, reviewing lines – until the script comes out and the prologue begins (an excellent Alex Fernandez voices the Chorus).
Costumes and props remain sparse: One of the few signposts we get of Harry's (Joe McGovern) transition from wastrel to monarch is the exchange of his high-top Converse sneakers for combat boots. Flashbacks to Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2, frame the prince's ascent with deathbed exchanges with his father and his barfly days among Falstaff and company, a technique that makes Henry's evolution more pronounced.
As the titular king, McGovern could play up the grit even further, but the rest of the nimble cast delights: Terrance Elton is a malevolent pleasure tripling as the foppish Dauphin, traitorous Lord Scroop and cynical everyman Williams, while Carole Weyers charms in an armistice vignette as a French princess learning English.
When it comes to actual battle, necessity proves the mother of invention: in the narrow space, Cienfuegos' assured direction creates a symphony of movement.
Pacific Resident Theatre, 707 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through April 20. (310) 822-8392, pacificresidenttheatre.com.
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