Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 2, 2008

A Man for All Seasons

Berkshire Theatre, Stockbridge
Through August 9
By Shera Cohen

It’s been several seasons since Eric Hill was last on stage. The opportunity to observe Hill’s portrayal as Sir Thomas More in “A Man for All Seasons” is one important reason to catch this play before it closes. Another is to watch the other actors, as this is a collection of thespian work at its best.

“Man” is based on the true story of More, of which there is much history. Set in the era of Henry VIII, is the battle of church and state over the divorce of the king’s first wife, Catherine. Equally, it is the conflict of conscience and convenience. The plot is far from black and white or right vs. wrong. The play could, indeed, be titled “A Man for all Days” or “Years” or “Centuries.” Beliefs and convictions of 1530 may as well be the same, with the same vehemence in 2008.

Richard Corley directs his cast in a series of chronological segments in the life of More, his family, and constituents. The thread linking each part is The Common Man, portrayed exceptionally well in multiple roles by Walter Hudson. David Chandler’s Cromwell plays sinister to perfection, Gareth Saxe’s Henry combines humor with determination in his king, and Diane Prusha evenly balances love and strength for and against her stubborn husband as More’s wife.

Hill is quite understated, except for a few short moments, as More. As a man of the cloth and of government, More’s professions pulled him in two directions, resulting in deadly consequences. Through Hill, we see the struggle of a man who willingly sheds both exterior garments to live solely by his own judgment.

The trappings of staging and costuming create 16th century England. Yet, actors do not feign British accents, and much of the playwright’s dialogue seems quite 20th century. Throughout, the play asks the question, “What is a man without principles and values?” Today’s audience members leave asking the same question of themselves.