Matthews is the respected actor and Shakespeare scholar who has worked with modified-cast stagings of the Bard's plays in the past, although this staging is expected to have a traditionally-sized company. The Matthews version has been previously mounted by California Actors Theatre, Denver Center Theatre Company, The Goodman Theater and by The Globe Theatres. A spokesman confirmed October 2003 as the start for the Vivian Beaumont Theater staging, which melds Henry IV, Part 1 and Henry IV, Part 2 (both circa 1597) into one experience. The works, to be directed by Jack O'Brien, who helmed the play at the Old Globe, focus on the familial, royal and political conflicts surrounding Henry Bolingbroke, the king.
Kline (On the 20th Century, Pirates of Penzance, The Public's 2001 Seagull) will play Falstaff, the rollicking pal to young Prince Hal, and Richard Easton (Noises Off, The Invention of Love) will be Henry IV. Billy Crudup has been mentioned for Hal, the lad who will become Henry V.
Does Hal have the stuff to rule the kingdom? Will Henry put down an insurrection by Hotspur? Can the drunkard Falstaff help mold a future king? The plays are famous for having the kind of juice you usually see in a miniseries about the Kennedy family.
O'Brien is white-hot of late, having helmed The Full Monty, The Invention of Love, Hairspray and the upcoming Broadway play-with-music, Imaginary Friends.
Matthews is an actor, playwright, Shakespeare scholar, and Professor Emeritus of English (Cal State Hayward). He was the artistic director of the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival and the California Actors Theatre, taught in the early years of the Juilliard Drama Division, and was a founding member of the Acting Company. He has appeared widely on television and in film, and has had a 35-year stage career — most recently playing Sir Toby Belch in Jack O'Brien's Twelfth Night for the Globe Theatres and Capulet in Sir Peter Hall's Romeo and Juliet at the Ahmanson Theatre.