God Help the Queen

What stops The King's Mare from becoming a light sexist farce is director Hall's endeavor to milk it for all the low comedy possible, allowing his actors to dive headfirst into it as though it were Your Show of Shows. Costume designer Penny Koleos Williams has outfitted her 16th-century charges in lavish dress seemingly inspired by the well-known Holbein portraits of the Tudor court. But she's also pushing the ridiculousness of, say, Anne's headdress so that it seems equally to refer to Tenniel's illustrations of the ugly duchess in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Dimon, of course, isn't ugly, but she has one of those gifted plastic faces that can make itself the mirror of her character's sad-sack emotions, to marvelous effect.

Michael O. Smith infuses King Henry with a Falstaffian charm. He may be a pig, but he's an endearing pig. Smith's Henry consorts with a mistress -- Kathryn Howard, niece of the Duke of Norfolk -- right under Anne's nose. But his dalliances seem as much a rebellion against those court ministers united in "a conspiracy against my bachelorhood" as an active disrespect for his marriage. "I refuse to wallow in any more marriage beds," he declares at the play's onset, giving a little shudder at the memory of his previous wife named Anne (Boleyn).

Around these two, John Felix's Sir Thomas Wriothsley hovers like a nervous bumblebee, one who has more than tiny inkling of the historical significance of any fumble he might make. (The hapless Wriothsley is the one who ends up in bed with the couple, translating for them on their wedding night.) Around Felix and Smith revolve a cadre of supporting players, all excellent, from Joy Johnson's Lady Osenbruk and Dan Leonard's Master Holbein to John Fitzgibbon's Prime Minister Cromwell, John Fionte's Duke of Norfolk, and George Kapetan's Archbishop Cranmer. With all this talent waiting on the king and queen, I only wished they were serving a better play.

The King's Mare.
Written by Oscar E. Moore. Directed by Michael Hall. Starring Elizabeth Dimon, Michael O. Smith, John Fitzgibbon, George Kapetan, John Felix, John Fionte, Dan Leonard, Coleen McDermott, and Joy Johnson. Through May 23. Caldwell Theatre Company, 7873 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton, 561-241-7432.

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