THEATER REVIEW: “The Last Wife” @ WAM Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

Nehassaiu deGannes as Kate and John Hadden as Henry in WAM Theatre's production of The Last Wife
Nehassaiu deGannes as Kate and John Hadden as Henry in WAM Theatre’s production of The Last Wife

Review by Macey Levin

Katherine Parr was Henry VIII’s sixth and last wife. She was a woman before her time – viewed as an intellectual, having served as regent to Henry’s son, the future King Edward VI, and the first woman in England to have books published under name. Her four-year marriage to Henry is the focus of Kate Hennig’s play The Last Wife produced by WAM Theatre at the Bernstein Theatre on the campus of Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox.

We follow Parr’s life from her first introduction to Henry to her marriage to Thomas Seymour and her death from childbirth a year later. This is a very broad canvas, and that is a major flaw of the play. Her relationship with her lover Seymour, Henry, his daughters Mary and Elizabeth (called Bess) and his son Edward (called Eddie) requires a lot of talk, some of which is repetitive or redundant or unnecessary. If the script were tighter, the drama would be more telling and emotionally more affecting.

Though the play takes place in the sixteenth century, Hennig has opted to place it into today’s world and to use contemporary jargon and idioms to point out the relevance of the events to our time. Drawing on Kate’s strengths as a woman, she says, “The story fits neatly into present day American politics. Audiences will see the correlation. Women’s stories were dangerous to tell, and it is still dangerous to present women’s point of view of history.” This view is supported by the play.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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