Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Colonial Players The Lion in Winter

By • Jan 16th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
The Lion in Winter by James Goldman
Colonial Players
Colonial Players Theater, Annapolis, MD
Through January 30th, 2010
2:30 with one intermission
$20/$15 Seniors and Students
Reviewed January 10, 2010

The Lion in Winter is a play by James Goldman. Produced for the first time on Broadway in 1966, and again in a revival in 1999, the play recalls a fictional Christmas in 1183. King Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, their three remaining children (Richard the Lionheart, Geoffrey and John) are at Henry Plantagenet’s château and primary residence in Chinon, Anjou, within the Angevin Empire of medieval France. Philip II of France, (the son of the late King Louis VII of France and Eleanor’s ex-husband), and Philip II’s half-sister, Alais Capet, (a daughter of Louis VII who is now Henry’s ward and mistress), round out the characters. The story is perhaps better known as the classic movie of the same title in 1968, adapted by Goldman, starring Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, but don’t let that distract you from seeing Colonial Players’ current lush production.

Mickey Handwerger’s talented cast brings Goldman’s intricate script of intrigue, humor, hostility and, yes, love, vividly to life with stellar performances by its leads, Kevin Wallace as Henry II, King of England and Mary Watko as Eleanor of Aquitaine. The skilled supporting cast includes Erin Leigh Casey as Alais Capet, Pat Reynolds as Richard the Lionheart, Ron Giddings as Geoffrey, Eric Schaum as seventeen year-old John and Josh Greenwald as Philip Capet, King of France and Alais’ 18-year-old brother.

Everyone in the cast has something to bring to this particularly ruthless party. There are no cameos here. The characters spin their intrigues on the turn of a phrase or with a glance, as much as with the words. Nobody wins the battle of supremacy in this war of
emotions. In truth, The Lion in Winter is a very wordy play, but the cast delivers each barb, stroke and parry with impeccable timing and flawless emotion.

Kudos go to Assistant Director Heather Quinn’s design team, including Eric Lund and Laurie Nolan, whose impressively complex set design takes full advantage of the stage space, Alex Baños, for lighting that is comprehensive and atmostpheric, Beth Terranova (costume design) and Jo Ann Gidos (properties) for the touches that convey the feel of the period.

A word on subject matter: This play contains adult language and themes that might be unsuitable for younger viewers.

Director’s Notes

Towards the end of the first act of The Lion in Winter, John is horrified when his brother Richard pulls a knife on him. Eleanor responds by saying: “Of course he has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives. It is eleven eighty-three and we’re barbarians.” This is a joke, of course, but there is more than humor here. The author seems to ask his audience to notice how different these people from the Middle Ages are from modern people.

Just a few moments after the knife scene, Eleanor realizes that she can use something John has said to get the better of him and to wound his father, Henry. Thus, the knife in this case is not a real knife but a metaphorical one. Eleanor is not planning to wound her husband physically, but emotionally, just as a modern person might do. Indeed, all of the wounding in this play is emotional. Real knives are seen on occasion, and there is talk of war and death but all that actually happens is that members of a family argue, struggle, plot, and hurl insults at each other.

And so The Lion in Winter attempts to show us that the struggles that go on in a modern family are just as serious, dangerous, and wounding in their own way as the bloody struggles carried on by the people of 1183. Emotional wounds can be as serious as physical ones and medieval struggles to conquer provinces and win thrones are just heightened versions of the need for love and the every day struggles that go on in modern families today.

On a more personal note, no director or person exists within a vacuum. It is the people around us, the friends we choose to associate with, the people we choose to work with, our relationships with family and friends that define us. There has been no greater example of this in my directing experience than with this production of The Lion in Winter. Without the extremely hard, dedicated work, talent, and unwavering support of my production team; Heather Quinn, Laurie Nolan, Dick Whaley, Alex Baños, Beth Terranova, Eric Lund, and Herb Elkin…what you see before you this evening would be only a passing thought in my mind. I am both honored and humbled that they so willingly offered their talents and their time to this production and to me. They are not just my colleagues, but true friends without whom my life and my work would have little meaning. Thank you!

–Mickey Handwerger


  • Henry II: Kevin Wallace
  • Alais: Erin Casey
  • John: Eric Schaum
  • Geoffrey: Ron Giddings
  • Richard: Pat Reynolds
  • Eleanor: Mary Watko
  • Philip: Josh Greenwald

Production Staff

  • Director: Mickey Handwerger
  • Assistant Director: Heather Quinn
  • Producer: Charlotte Robinson
  • Stage Manager: Herb Elkin
  • Set Design: Eric Lund, Laurie Nolan
  • Lead Carpenter: Dick Whaley
  • Carpenters: Lee Craft, Norm James, Jim Robinson, Mark Whaley, Ted Yablonski
  • Painting and Decor Design: Laurie Nolan
  • Set Painting and Decoration: Laurie Nolan, Tom Ammon, Darice Clewell, Jo Ann Gidos, Mickey Handwerger, Eric Lund, Edd Miller, Jeanie Mincher, Heather Quinn, Jim Reiter
  • Lighting Design: Alex Baños
  • Lighting Assistants: Ken Greenwald, Eric Lund, Danny Robinson, Tom Stuckey, Jamie A. Thomas, Vince van Joolen
  • Lighting Technicians: Alex Baños, Jacki Dixon, Jeanie Mincher
  • Sound Design: Andy Serb, Mickey Handwerger
  • Costume Design: Beth Terranova
  • Costume Assistants: Jeannie Beall, Christina McAlpine, Nancy Peth,
  • Donna Soraparu, Kevin Wallace, Leslie Woolford, Carol Youmans
  • Properties: Jo Ann Gidos
  • Properties Assistant: Mike Gidos
  • Hair and Makeup: Pam Peach
  • Design Team Coordinator: Heather Quinn
  • Rehearsal Assistants: Mary Coleman, Angie Dey
  • Dialect Coach: Bryan Barrett
  • Play Consultant: Darice Clewell
  • Production Consultant: Heather Quinn
  • Program/Poster Design: Jim Gallagher
  • Photography: Colburn Images
  • Program Editor: Tom Stuckey
  • Lobby Display: Shannon Benil, Lois Evans, Jason Vaughn

Disclaimer: Colonial Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is founder and Artistic Director of OutOftheBlackBox Theatre Company (O2B2) and General Manager of the Greenbelt Arts Center. Since 2006 Betsy has worked as a director, producer, designer and more. Betsy has also worked with Washington Revels, Arena Stage, the now-defunct Harlequin Dinner Theatre and with community theatre companies both in Maryland and in upstate New York. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Technical Theatre from SUNY New Paltz. Through Hawkeswood Productions, Betsy produces archival performance videos and YouTube highlight spots.

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