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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

Thou Proud Dream

Or: About Face

Returning home from the bloody streets of Kirkuk, Iraq, Leroy (Brett Matthews) is having a hard time adjusting to civilian life. At his welcome home party, thrown by his wife Alicia (Isabel Thompson) at the local American Legion, he shies from the well wishing but ignorant company to be alone with Henry V and the words of glory and honor that got him through the war. But as he conjures the eloquent court of warrior princes and lets his imagination crown his king (Jospeh Sultani) he is visited by the ghosts of those he left overseas Sgt. Muller (Jesse Daved Perez), Bashir the interpreter (Adam King) and Amira (Cemre Paksoy) the seed of all his nightmares.

Following Leroy and the English army round and about a golf course in the dead of night, herded by menacing soldiers with pikes, we are granted a lot of time between bursts of verse to wonder what adapter Damon Krometis thinks about Henry V and its relation to war and that strange creature, the soldier. Leroy is seeking the glory that led him to join up (and the production gleams with his many silent and rock steady attempts to prove himself worthy of that dream) while Bashir and Muller (super-ego ghost and id ghost, respectively) keep ushering him back to the dirty, base and unfounded war he experienced. We don’t know where Leroy and Krometis comes down on: the soldier as anti-hero or villain with good marketing but this is the rare case where ambiguity seems right. The ending feels rushed, we don’t know how Leroy has dealt with his haunting, but as many who return never do manage to fully exorcize themselves, this too seems sadly right.

As with every production of Henry V ever made, the real clincher of the evening comes on the feast of Crispian. Throughout the production Leroy has used every devise he knows to show us the power and the glory of shakespeare’s elbow deep use of storytelling and finely wrought verse (never mind that a couple of his sendlings cannot speak it worth a bent pin, the majority take to it like fish to water), even he is overshadowed by the power and dedication of his company: both in the imagined, remembered and literal field. Closed around a circle of light, shoulder to shoulder with the tired the weary and the wretched we can see Henry’s resolve to make Agincourt his greatest victory be kindled and shine out in the faces of his troops, their jaws locked in determination their eyes shining as their king calls out their importance. But the incantation, even as it warms our own cockles touches our hearts with cold, for we have seen, and are about to see, what will come of the fire now it has been kindled.

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