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Cedar City • Sometimes a single bright idea reaps big rewards.

That was certainly the case when the Utah Shakespeare Festival decided to present the Henry IV and V trilogy of plays, not only in succession, but featuring the same actors.

Henry Woronicz was unable to continue as Falstaff, but Larry Bull as King Henry IV and Sam Ashdown as his son Prince Hal, who later becomes king, have remained dynamically committed to the project; Brian Vaughn — himself a veteran of the roles of Hal and Henry V — has directed all three productions.

"Henry V," the culmination of their efforts, just opened Utah Shakespeare Festival's summer season in a production that manages to be exciting, intelligent and emotionally satisfying by turns. One of the joys of a repertory company is that it makes collaborations and connections like this possible.

"The king is but a man as I am," Henry tells some of his men the night before the battle of Agincourt, and Ashdown's portrayal indelibly captures both aspects of the character. He struggles to juggle mercy and justice as he ponders the morality of his choices ("May I with right and conscience?)"; he empathizes with his men's fear and uncertainty as he rouses them to fight in the famous "Once more unto the breach" and "Saint Crispin's Day" speeches; he humbly acknowledges "praised be God, and not our strength" when his army is victorious; and he is playful and willing to look foolish when he woos Princess Katherine.

Vaughn chooses to stage two scenes that usually happen offstage, and Ashdown uses these to reveal Henry's vulnerability and compassion. The first occurs when he must hang his old companion Bardolph for theft, and the second is his reaction when the French callously kill the Boy, whom he has come to care for as a younger version of himself, along with the other boys guarding the luggage.

The three productions have allowed us to see Ashdown mature as an actor and Henry grow into a king.

Bull is equally impressive. Henry IV is now dead, but Bull is an imposing white-robed figure in the role of the Chorus. Vaughn also casts him in three other roles that enable him to become story maker as well as storyteller and give him a paternal, peacemaking presence.

Todd Denning's flamboyant Fluellen, J. Todd Adams' hothead Pistol, Eddie Lopez's sniveling braggart Dauphin, Kelly Rogers' sensible and compassionate Montjoy, Bree Murphy's motherly Mistress Quickly, and Leslie Lank's charmingly skittish Katherine stand out in the large supporting cast.

The first act seems slow and talky in places, but the second act gathers momentum, and Vaughn's staging of the battle scenes — especially placing the archers on the balcony — overflows with energy and excitement.

Scott Davis' set, with its melting red candles, portraits of long-dead kings and askew wooden top, conveys the feeling of a monarchy in transition, and Donna Ruzika's lighting is low-key and moody.

David Kay Mickelsen's costumes are a rich blend of burgundy, brown and russet, and the red and blue uniforms and shields help us distinguish the French from the English. Joe Payne's complex sound design — waves, wind, marching feet, cannons and swishing arrows — adds another emotional layer to the play, complementing the original music that underscores Henry's monologues and the somber singing of "Non Nobis, Domine."

With this production, the Henry saga, with its portraits of fathers and sons and an English monarchy in conflict and transition, comes to an end. It will be interesting to see what is in store next for Ashdown, Bull and Vaughn. Hopefully such a fruitful collaboration will have other chapters. —

O for a muse of fire!

The Utah Shakespeare Festival's production of "Henry V" brings the Henry history cycle to an exciting and satisfying close.

When • Reviewed Thursday, July 7; plays in rotating repertory with two other productions Mondays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. through Sept. 10.

Where • Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, 200 W. Center St., Cedar City

Tickets • $20 to $73 with discounts for groups, students and seniors; (800) PLAYTIX (752-9849) or

Running time • Three hours (including an intermission)

A summer of Shakespeare

The Utah Shakespeare Festival celebrates its 55th season with productions in the Randall L. Jones Theatre and two new theaters: the outdoor Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre and the 200-seat Eileen and Allen Anes Studio Theatre. All three stages are part of the new Beverley Center for the Arts.

Parking • Free parking on the northwest corner of 300 West and Center Street (north of Center Street/University Boulevard); no permit needed

Also • Greenshow, a half-hour show, plays north of the Engelstad Theatre at 7:10 p.m.; free

Child care • $20 per show; reservations needed, at 800-PLAYTIX

Through Saturday, July 9 • Southern Utah University and Utah Shakespeare Festival invite the public to The Beverley Opening Celebration, with music, performances, tours and artist demonstrations

Engelstad Theatre

'Much Ado About Nothing' • Plays through Sept. 8

'The Three Musketeers' • Plays through Sept. 9

Randall Theatre

'The Cocoanuts' • Plays through Oct. 15

'Mary Poppins' • Plays through Sept. 2

'The Odd Couple' • Sept. 14-Oct. 22

Anes Studio Theatre

'Julius Caesar' • July 29-Oct. 22

'Murder for Two' • Aug. 4-Oct. 22