Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 11, 2013

The Lion in Winter

Suffield Players, Suffield, CT
through October 26, 2013
by Bettie Hallen

With the leonine Robert Lunde as King Henry II of England and the regal Debi Freund as Eleanor of Aquitane, "The Lion in Winder" unfolds on the Suffield stage in all of its 12th Century royal panoply, intrigue, and chicanery. The gorgeously costumed family Plantagenet is as dysfunctional and love-hungry as any group could ever be, and all in it are masterfully portrayed.

Will Matus is the eldest son, Richard the Lionhearted: tall, handsome, and soldierly; his brother in the middle, Geoffrey, is played by Nathan Rumney with conniving perfection; and Christian Tarr is “to a T” the callow youngest, John. These three young men are certainly King Henry’s boys reincarnated on the stage at Suffield Players' Mapleton Hall.

Marisa Clement plays the lovely Alais, Henry’s mistress, raised by Eleanor to be the eventual wife of Henry's heir -- until Eleanor was imprisoned ten years earlier by Henry for leading a revolt. To round off the cast, Brian Rucci cleverly provides a great deal of comic relief as Alais’s brother, the new young King Philip of France, but a “foolish boy” to Henry.

Lunde's and Fruend's characters glibly toss barbs back and forth as they scheme to get their own different favorite son to become successor to the throne. Of course, there are three sons, and only one can be king, so parents and children take and change sides as they machinate into a thrilling conclusion, leaving the audience gasping in a rush of adrenaline.

The play, which tells the unforgettable tale of one of England’s most fascinating couples, is directed by Rayah Martin who adeptly leads her cast into an interpretation which gives the audience nearly three hours of fast-paced, relevant medieval history while, Martin states, "allowing the brilliantly written script to stand on its own merits.”

Suffield mounted this play in the 70's, and is one of the few plays they have brought back to their stage – and a finer revival could not be imagined.