Thursday, January 25, 2018

Cygnet’s “The Last Wife” First Class Theatre On All Fronts

All politics is theatre. I’m not just talking about now politics; I’m talking all politics. The theatrics going on right now are second to none in the Trump era of tweeting and false news, not to mention the ginormous crowds taking to the streets to protest the above misogynist. It’s theatre at its lowest denominator.  

The jockeying, the showmanship of the politicians on the Senate floor during the health care debate with John McCain giving the Repubs. the finger with his ‘thumbs down’ vote in a last minute drive to pass the senate was purely theatrical.  
Cashae Monya with Allison Spratt Pearce
The blame game between the R’s and the D’s, and the first to stick their faces into a TV camera, the first to speak on a controversial vote, etc., the he said, she said nonsense that in the end is all a matter of, as my favorite Judge, Judge Judy says of all teenagers; if their lips are moving, they are lying, and as my favorite T.V. hostess, Rachel Maddow says, ”Don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do”. It’s high drama for the sake of pleasing a particular audience.

In Kate Hennig’s new play, “The Last Wife” now in a  theatrically and politically charged West Coast premiere through Feb.11th at Cygnet Theatre and under the nifty direction of Rob Lufty, the comings and goings of Henry VIII came thankfully, well before MSNBC’s 24/7 news. One tyrant is quite enough for the masses to handle at a time.

Hennig’s reimagining of the history of the relationship between Henry’s last and sixth wife, Katherine Parr, (she had three husbands he was 52 she was 31) who was a whirlwind of knowledge and a cunning partner, is at the least a somewhat easy lesson for non history buffs and at best, a delicious play for those loving a savory dish.  

It’s played in the present with its roots sewn in the past and is as contemporary as the latest ‘Breaking News” interruptions on T.V. 

Yes, it's  theatre and politics at its best.
Allison Spratt Pearce and Manny Fernandes
Kate Parr challenges, using her most feminine of ways to change the King’s thinking of how he treats and educates his women, particularly his throw away so named, ‘bastard’ daughters Bess, later to become Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, who will also one day occupy on the throne.

Driving that train, with all her slyness, intelligence and skills however, puts Kate in harams way more often than she was willing to acknowledge.

Hennig is unrelenting in her drive to put Kate on top, both in the bedroom and as a teacher to his children, in particular young Eddie, later to become Edward IV.
(L to R) Allison Spratt Pearce, Kylie Acuna, Cashae Monya Giovanni Cozic, Manny Fernandes/
Parr was intelligent, opportunistic and dutiful and at times was well rewarded with jewels and a short run at political power. That, as much as with scorn and brutality when Henry thought she stepped over the line, is the stuff that keeps audiences coming back for more.    

The two met at a time when the King was ailing. He was suffering from a diseased leg that, if you will, stunk out loud because of the way his court physicians were treating it. It was an open wound that was covered but underneath the cotton wrapping, his raw skin was exposed.

He was relentless; oft times cruel, cunning, sexually and physically abusive, frighteningly moody yet his bark in warfare was pretty much reduced to a growl. Yet he was still in great form mentally to go neck and neck in competition with her and enough to exert damage to anyone in his path, say Parr.

Both were intelligent beings, and had shared interests together like hunting and music.  She was the first Queen to be published. She edited and wrote religious books on Prayers and Meditations.
Allison Sprat Pearce and Steven Lone
Katherine was lucky to have outlived Henry by a few years as her love affair with Henry’s ex brother in law Thomas Seymour wore at Henry. Steven Lone (handsomely appealing and suspicious to the core) as Jane’s brother was an open secret to so many that it almost cost Parr her life. The fact that Thom was playing a no win game with young Bess (14 year old Kylie Acuña) and Henry was dying most likely saved her life.  

She and Thom Seymour later married. She died in childbirth, leaving behind a young daughter. He was beheaded for messing with Bess.    

Like dueling banjo’s, the two play their tunes like it or not, each to preserve whatever wit, power or up-mans ship he or she might gain in the political arena of Henry’s biography, and I might add hers, although less is written about her.

Hers will be noted for her push to give women equal rights, to educate them and to elevate them to lead nations; his of course to preserve the status quo.  
Manny Fernandes and Allison Spratt Pearce
Cygnet Theatre has hit this one out of the ballpark with an all -star cast and as fine theatre as you will see anywhere. The chemistry between Many Fernandes the oversized, blustering Henry and the stunning, petite and beautiful Allison Sprat Pearce is hot.

Theirs is an emotional seesaw that if it could be predicted as to how each would fare, all bets would be off save for the historical facts. But…in 2018 terms one would know, so sophisticated we think we are.

The two battle intellectually as well as physically. He attempts to strangle her a couple of times and once, he pushes her to the ground (George Yé’s great fight direction) and if that wasn’t a gasping moment, nothing was. On stage Fernandes’ appearance and performance are bigger than life and I might add an all time high for this versatile actor.

As for Allison Spratt Pearce, nothing less than exceptional can be used to describe her performance. As Katherine she’s smart, witty, strong tough and tender at the same time.

She’s nurturing (as much as she can) to Henry’s children showing tenderness and affection especially to Eddie (played with wholesomeness by Giovanni Cozic, on opening night) born to Henry’s ‘love of his life’ wife Jane Seymour.  To young Bess, brilliantly played by the mature 14-year-old Kylie Acuña Parr'  high expectations  pay off in the end.
Cashae Monya, Allison Spratt Pearce and Kylie Acuna
The belligerent and feisty Mary as played by Cashae Monya, out to unnerve her stepmother at every turn and push her father’s buttons when she is in his presence, are both funny and clever. 

Just coming off of playing Sally Bowles in Ion’s “Cabaret”, this looks to be a fun change of pace for her.

Veronica Murphy’s costumes both contemporary and in Monya’s case very funky are eye appealing. Sean Fanning’s modern and sleek set reflects both present and past, and Chris Rynnes lighting design helps keep the focus on the drama being played out and Kevin Anthenill’s sound compliments it all.   

“The Last Wife” is a theatrically driven recreation of history repeating itself in many ways now that women have once again found their voices centuries after Katherine Parr, perhaps the first women’s libber, led the march.  You will kick yourself if you miss this one.

Thanks to Kate (ah, those Kate’s) Hennig, Kate Parr gets the last word in this recreation of then and now political theatre at its best.  

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Feb.11th
Organization: Cygnet Theatre
Phone: 619-337-1525
Production Type: Drama
Where: 440 Twiggs Street, Old Town, San Diego, CA 92110
Ticket Prices: Start at $38.00
Venue: Cygnet Theatre

Photo: Daren Scott


  1. Nice post! This is a very nice blog that I will definitively come back to more times this year!I'll make sure to bookmark it and return to peruse a greater amount of your helpful information.

    io jogos net
    friv school Games to play
    a10 best free online game

  2. I will be happy if you read my comment. I must say that I like all your posts and wait for new ones. That's because they seem so great and suitable for me. Thanks a ton for uploading your articles. friv2020 || kizi || abcya4 free games