Dramatic comedy roars onto Whidbey Playhouse stage

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Combine 12th century costumes, swordplay, politics, family dysfunction and a rich script and you have the latest production from the Whidbey Playhouse in Oak Harbor.

“The Lion in Winter,” a dramatic comedy by James Goldman, opens Friday, Nov. 6 and will run through Nov. 22.

The play is set in 1168. Queen Eleanor, long exiled for actively plotting against her husband, King Henry II, has been invited to spend the Christmas holiday in Chinon, France with her husband the King, their sons, the King’s mistress and her brother, King Philip II of France. If that isn’t complicated enough, the 50-year-old King Henry must choose one of his sons to succeed him on the throne: Richard, a soldier with a lust for blood; Geoffrey, the diplomat who first looks out for himself; or John, a spoiled teenager.

As with all plays selected for this anniversary season, they must have been performed at one time or another over the Playhouse’s 50 years. Producer Allenda Jenkins said they wanted a good mix for the season and “The Lion in Winter” fit the bill.

“We wanted to include a production with a chance at meaty parts that would really stretch our actors,” she said. “This is a nice, solid piece.”

The play is driven by dialogue and actors were asked to have their lines already memorized by the first rehearsal.

“Not having to learn lines in rehearsal means the actors can get into all the nuances and depth of the characters,” Jenkins said.

“It is full of clever dialogue,” said director Stan Thomas, who said the most challenging aspect of the production are all the set changes. There are six different sets to prepare between scenes.

However, it’s the story that drives this production, and just because it’s set in the 12th century doesn’t mean it’s not relevant to today.

“In a way it’s almost like watching a modern family like the Kardashians,” Thomas said. “But if you like good drama with a mix of comedy, you’ll like this.”

There are seven cast members, along with extras Thomas added here and there at his discretion. Ben Honeycutt and Playhouse newcomer Ingrid Schwalbe play King Henry II and Queen Eleanor, respectively. The royal couple’s sons are played by Nate Edmiston, Kyle Caporgno and Jerry Wible. The King’s mistress, Alais, is played by another newcomer, Anna Schenck, and Chris Barrett plays Philip II, King of France.

Filled with rich dialogue, humor and drama, Thomas said the play has broad appeal.

“This is an intelligent script,” he said. “I think it appeals to people on a lot of different levels.”

The play opens Friday, Nov. 6 and will continue through Nov. 22 with shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and a 2:30 matinee on Sundays. Click here for ticket information. The Whidbey Playhouse is located at 730 SE Midway Blvd. in Oak Harbor.

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