"The Lion in Winter"
by James Goldman
Psych Drama Company
By Kevin T. Baldwin
PROVIDENCE, RI - "The Lion in Winter” by James Goldman. Presented by the Psych Drama Company. Performance: December 5, 2020, 8pm EST. Tickets can be purchased on-line at www.thepsychdramacompany.com or contact The Psych Drama Company directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by James Goldman. Co-Directed by Larry Segel and Wendy Lippe. Technical Director Doug Greene.
Cast Includes: Brian Dion, Wendy Lippe, Mark Modena, Mark Prokes, Francis Sheehan, Jacqueline DiGenio and Ryan Perry.
Psych Drama Company in Providence presents an old school radio play dramatization of James Goldman’s “The Lion in Winter”.
Psych Drama Company offers an escape from another potential “winter of discontentment” for homebound theatregoers this December with a finely tuned radio dramatization of James Goldman’s “The Lion in Winter” which will be streamed via OntheStage.com!
As the play opens, it is Christmas, 1183. We are in the esteemed castle of blustery King Henry II of England (Brian Dion).
Henry's wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Wendy Lippe), arrives from exile as Henry had her imprisoned 10 years earlier.
It is clear their relationship is adversarial from the outset, yet there is an inconsistent, underlying but occasionally endearing quality to both thanks to the balanced performances by Dion and Lippe.
We also meet Henry’s three competitive sons: Richard Lionheart (Mark Modena), the oldest; Geoffrey (Mark Prokes), the middle son; and John (Francis Sheehan), the youngest (John, the youngest son).
Prodded by Eleanor’s manipulative intervening, a contest ensues between all members of the squabbling royal family and guest of the kingdom, Phillip II, the King of France (Ryan Perry).
The performances between the sibling brothers and the visiting King are all exemplary, but there is definitely a loss felt due to the missing visual. As an audio dramatization, one must listen intently to all of the dialogue or much nuance is missed as a result.
Henry has a young mistress, Alais (Jacqueline DiGenio), a French Princess who is Philip's half-sister but has been living at Henry’s castle since she was betrothed to Richard at age eight.
The brothers feuding as a result of Henry and Eleanor’s mischievous competition fuel an incredible immaturity between all the characters, not leaving the audience with a sympathetic character or a character to root for, with the possible exception of the naïve Alais.
DiGenio gives an able performance as Alais but her character, as scripted, is limited primarily to react to the behavior of the others in scenes. The sheltered Alais is used as nothing more than a pawn by the others, leaving very little for the actress to work with as far as material is concerned.
Alais does figure, though, quite prominently as an obvious potential threat to the relationship between Henry and Eleanor. Not so obvious is the relationship between Henry and Eleanor which appears acrimonious at best (pathetic at worst).
Sparks fly between the two due to moments of harsh bickering. Yet, sparks also fly through moments of tenderness which seem less sincere and a bit forced at times. However, that has little to do with the seasoned performances by Dion and Lippe and more to do with Goldman’s occasionally adolescent sounding dialogue.
Overall the audio drama’s production quality does not disappoint in the slightest.
In a time where live theatre is still not possible, the mind must create its own “visual” images of theatre productions. With well-produced, well-crafted audio only productions such as “The Lion in Winter,” vibrant images should come to mind with very little effort.
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)