You love this show before it starts. Nina Ball's castle interior, with all those doors for characters to hop in and out of, gets us ready for all the machinations and pomp of Tudor England.
And it just gets better. This is only the second American production of Howard Brenton's 2010 homage to the mysterious and short-term second wife of Henry VIII. She has historically been presented as an unfortunate victim of Henry's lustful appetites. Here, she becomes a willing conniver whose true goal, in tandem with Thomas Cromwell, is to bring Protestantism to England.
Whatever the truth may have been, Liz Sklar is mesmerizing as Anne Boleyn. In a role that demands we see her as both a woman and a ghost, she keeps us pulling for her, despite the history with which we are well acquainted. Craig Marker is Sklar's equal, as King Henry VIII but even more as King James 1 (Henry's grandson through Mary, Queen of Scots).
We also loved Charles Shaw Robinson's two roles as Lord Cecil and Cardinal Wolsey, as well as Dan Hiatt as Tyndale. And Ashley Holvick's costumes are worth the price of admission by themselves.
Anne Boleyn has been portrayed many times throughout modern history. Here we get a far more nuanced view. Historically accurate or not, it makes for great entertainment.
RATINGS ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards "Anne Boleyn" Four Stars. Mrs. Kritic, the reviewer's wife, really loved it. The reviewer himself was enthralled with Act 1 but found his eyes getting heavy during an extended Act II. As is always best in situations involving love and theater criticism, he will err on the side of keeping his head. Four Stars.
Marin Theater Company
397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley
Through May 8