Playwright Robert Bolt is an English screenwriter and dramatist noted for his epic screenplays. In London and New York from 1960-61, his most successful play A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS drew intense acclaim. After writing the screenplays for director David Lean’s epic films “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962) and “Doctor Zhivago” (1965), Bolt then adapted “A Man For All Seasons” for director Fred Zinnemann’s motion-picture version of the play in 1966, which went on to win six Academy Awards including Best Picture and Bolt’s for Best Adapted Screenplay.
This tragic historical drama offers a brilliant portrait of Sir Thomas More in his last years as Lord Chancellor of England during the reign of Henry VIII when his decision to change wives to obtain a male heir challenged the very foundation of the British Empire and Roman Catholic law.
When King Henry VIII failed to obtain papal approval for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn, the good King then mandated his subjects to sign an “Act of Supremacy” making him both spiritual and temporal leader of England.
And though loyal to the King and England, Sir Thomas More could not in good conscience comply. Instead, he chose to maintain his integrity and belief in silence, placing ethics before power. Ultimately accused of high treason, More’s very silence lead the man to his execution, and later his canonization in 1935.
Although More’s decision to stand up to his country’s sovereign authority cost him everything, today it offers us one of the most inspiring stories ever staged as presented by the Actors Co-op Theatre Company in Hollywood, directed with great skill and historical flair by Thom Babbes, produced by Carly Lopez, and starring Bruce Ladd whose brilliant performance as Sir Thomas More again has me praising him as one of the most talented and compelling actors gracing Los Angeles stages today. His performance is one not to be missed, sure to gain recognition in next year’s Ovation Awards.
“A Man For All Seasons” takes us behind the scenes to learn of all the backstabbing and changing alliances within the King’s inner circle, including the evil ringmaster Thomas Cromwell (John Allee), pliable Cardinal Wolsey (Greg Martin), Signor Chapuys (Vito Viscuso) the Spanish Ambassador there to keep an eye on Catherine’s interests as the daughter of Spain’s King, Master Richard Rich (Mitchell Lam Hau) whose desire to forward himself out of poverty takes precedence over everything else, The Duke of Norfolk (Sean McHugh) whose friendship with More becomes bitterly contested, More’s devoted wife Lady Alice (Treva Tegtmeier) whose suffering when separated from her husband will tug at your heartstrings, More’s beautiful and highly educated daughter Lady Margaret (Elsa Gay), her rather inferior choice for a husband William Roper (Issac Jay), and King Henry VIII, portrayed in his youthful exuberance by Ian Michaels, all of whom were unable to convince More to sign.
While each cast member mentioned above shines in their role, Deborah Marlowe is to be commended for her “wink and a nod” performance as The Common Man, most often as Matt, working-class assistant to More and then Cromwell, who has his hand out to accept bribes from any and all who request inside information to forward their own cause. As she moved scenery around to change locations, Marlowe informed us of who characters were as they entered for the first time and noted exact locations prior to each scene commencing.
And with such a complicated plot with so many scenes, Bolt’s inclusion of such as important informant as narrator for the sake of audience clarity is to be commended, along with Marlowe’s skill at making each of her characters so entering to watch.
Technical credits are as marvelous as always, especially the glorious costumes designed by Shon LeBlanc and creative scenic design by Rich Rose which allowed the small space to quickly morph into so many locations, even though there were times when Lisa D. Katz’s focused spotlighting design caused actors to deliver lines in darkness as they crossed the stage. Then again, when characters emerged from the shadows after spying on others, the effect was magnificently startling.
“A Man For All Seasons” continues on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. through Sunday, April 15 (dark March 30-April 1) at the Actors Co-op David Schall Theatre on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, 1760 N. Gower St., Hollywood. (Theater entrance and free parking lot on Carlos Street.) Reserved seat tickets $30, seniors (60-plus) $25, students $20 available online at www.ActorsCo-op.org or by calling 323-462-8460.