"What family doesn't have its ups and downs?" remarks Eleanor of Aquitaine after a confrontation with Henry, King of England, in Fullerton College's production of James Goldman's "The Lion in Winter," which continues at the FC Studio Theatre through Sunday, Dec. 15. .
Certainly, this family does. The king has kept his queen locked up due to her political strength, while he has found love with the French princess, Alais, who is part of a long treaty to marry Henry's successor.
As for who his successor will be, that spurs the many "private wars" that take place. There are three sons who could rule the Kingdom, and whom to choose proves more difficult than it would seem.
John, favored by Henry, is an unkept mess of a man and is the "baby" of the family, in more ways than age.
Richard, favored by Eleanor, is strong and powerful on the outside, but a weak mama's boy on the inside.
Finally, there is Geoffrey, the middle son. He is favored and loved by neither parent, and because he gets no love, he shows none either, relying only on his brains to keep him going. He is cool and calm, and his mind constantly keeps plotting, calculating and maneuvering.
The time is Christmas 1183.< The place is Henry's castle at Chinon, France. Eleanor has been set free, and is accompanied by the boys for a Christmas visit. Young King Phillip of France has come also to spend the holidays and see that Henry makes good on the treaty involving Alais.
Obviously this will not be a quiet and happy Christmas gathering, as all vie for power- power of land, power of people, power of a Kingdom.
James Goldman's dialog is excellent and crackles with sparks as the characters claw, shout and betray one another.
As for the acting, Rick Franklin's Henry is simply magnificent He is strong, loud, gentle and overbearing- just as Henry should be. Franklin's presence takes hold of the production and never lets go.
As Eleanor, Beverly Owing does not fare as well. She seems not quite up to par with Franklin's Henry-though she does tend to improve during the play's second half. Her pacing a little too quick at times, and thus some of her test lines suffer; as they are lost among the dialog; As for the sons, Thor Edgell's Richard is very good. He emit the right quality of powerfulness while also letting Richard's wea~ and soft insides betray him; which is perfect.
Michael Loupe as Geoffrey is also good, but he tends to show too much emotion-something Geoffrey would not. He needs to be more the cool and calculating machine than the whining complainer.
John played by Andrew Lowery', is a scene stealer. Lowery shows John's childishness and slouch, as the son favored by Henry with a love tha~ is crushing. (Lowery does seem to be. a little too loud, he gets trown about a lot. One wonders how he does this without getting hurt) .
As Alais Tracy Perdue IS excellent. She masters the right amount of emotion as the "pawn" in this family war who has everything to lose and nothing to gain. Perdue also . plays very well off Franklin's Henry.
Phillip, played by Robert Anthony, is also good. One can see the boy in him, trying to be a king, and all too good at it.
The play's set design by Todd Glen is first rate, and the direction by guest director Carlos Lacama makes the best use of all its dimensions. The only flaw was in the lighting, which seemed off cue a little too often.
Overall, "The Lion in Winter" is excellent entertainment, mixing the right amount of comedy and drama, for an enjoyable theatre experience.
Ticket prices for "The Lion inWinter" are $4 general and $3 for students.