The Head That Wears a Crown: Henry IV Begins at Lincoln Center, Oct. 28

News   The Head That Wears a Crown: Henry IV Begins at Lincoln Center, Oct. 28 The plays are not among Shakespeare's most familiar, but the cast contains some of the more recognizable players on the New York stage, including Richard Easton, Ethan Hawke, Michael Hayden, Kevin Kline and Audra McDonald.

Clockwise from upper left: Kevin Kline, Ethan Hawke, Michael Hayden and Audra MacDonald.
Clockwise from upper left: Kevin Kline, Ethan Hawke, Michael Hayden and Audra MacDonald.

All will be guided by director Jack O'Brien through Dakin Matthews' slimming adaptation of Shakespeare's twin history plays, Henry IV, Parts I and II. Also in the cast are Dana Ivey, Byron Jennings and Matthews himself. Opening night is Nov. 20.

Kevin Kline will play the fat knight, Falstaff, his latest sally into the world of Shakespeare, and Michael Hayden is his princely pal, Hal, heir to the British throne currently held by a shaky and worried Henry IV, played by Easton, who won a Tony for The Invention of Love. Hayden replaced Billy Crudup as Prince Hal during rehearsals. Crudup left for what was described as "personal reasons." Hayden had what remains his most notable role at Lincoln Center—Billy Bigelow in Carousel. He recently acted on Broadway in Enchanted April.

Jennings, a castmate of Hayden in Carousel (as was McDonald), is the Earl of Worcester. Hawke is Hal's hotblooded rival, Hotspur. As for the women, Dana Ivey stars as both Mistress Quickly and Lady Northumberland, and Audra McDonald as Lady Percy. Henry IV is McDonald's first major non-musical play on the New York stage since Terrence McNally's Master Class, for which she won a Tony Award (and she did sing within that play's master class conceit), and her first important stab at the classics.

The cast of 33 is completed by Tyrees Allen, Anastasia Barzee, Terry Beaver (The Last Night of Ballyhoo), Tom Bloom, Christine Marie Brown, Stevie Ray Dallimore, Stephen DeRosa (Into the Woods), Genevieve Elam, Peter Jay Fernandez, Scott Ferrara, Albert Jones, Ty Jones (The Blacks), Aaron Krohn, David Manis, Jed Orlemann, Lorenzo Pisoni, Steve Rankin, Lucas Caleb Rooney, Daniel Stewart Sherman, Corey Stoll, Baylen Thomas, Jeff Weiss (Flesh and Blood), Nance Williamson, C.J. Wilson, and Richard Ziman.

The works focus on the familial, royal and political conflicts surrounding Henry Bolingbroke, the king, who usurped the crown from Richard II (all detailed in Shakespeare's Richard II). Prince Hal, the king's son, is callow and hangs out with a group of jolly reprobates led by Falstaff, while privately vowing to himself that he will one day mend his ways and assume the throne. Meanwhile, that throne is beset upon from all sides. The greatest threat comes from Henry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland, and known as Hotspur. He joins forces with leaders in Scotland and Wales in a rash attempt to unseat Henry. The conflict eventually leads to a battle to the death between Hal and Hotspur. O'Brien has directed such recent, and disparate successes as The Invention of Love, The Full Monty and Hairspray.

For the record books, Henry IV happens to be Lincoln Center Theater's 100th production.