DAILY CAMERA CSF gets serious with 'Henry IV, Part 1,' opening July 18

July 18, 2014

By A.H. Goldstein 

The Sir John Falstaff from William Shakespeare's comedy "The Merry Wives of Windsor" is a different character from the Sir John Falstaff who populates the two parts of "Henry IV."

It's not as if Falstaff is any less of a lush in "Henry IV," the Bard's epic work about two of England's most beloved kings set in the 15th century. In comedy and history alike, the character is the very epitome of overindulgence. Gags about the portly man's weight and love for liquor abound in both pieces, and the character's consistent love for the freewheeling life has made him one of Shakespeare's most enduring characters.

Still, there's a difference between the rotund barfly in the plays, a nuance that's clear in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's current productions.

In "The Merry Wives of Windsor," Falstaff is the central comic foil, a clown in a lighthearted piece that features romance, weddings and plenty of slapstick. In "Henry IV, Part 1" — set to debut this weekend at the University Theatre on the University of Colorado campus — Falstaff's role goes much deeper. Here, the barfly stands as a symbol in a more monumental conflict. He's a kind of father figure to Prince Hal, the adolescent heir destined to become one of England's greatest kings. Falstaff represents loafing, ease and laze — traits that contradict the message coming from the prince's real father, the king Henry IV.

That kind of depth offers Michael Winters, who plays Falstaff in "Wives" and the two "Henry" plays, a much grander dramatic range.

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'Henry IV, Part 1' opens Friday, July 18. Click here to buy tickets or call 303-492-8008

Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado