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Six Dead Queens and An Inflatable Henry Review - Reality Wives of The House of Tudor

By Noel Schecter

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Denita Linnertz, Deborah Craft Proud, and Berner Taylor

Directed and designed by the women of the Piccolo Theatre, Six Dead Queens and An Inflatable Henry has all the subtlety of a fart under a blanket.  The play actually begins with such a fart, but for the most part flatulence takes a back seat to the general nastiness displayed by King Henry VIII’s ex-wives to each other.  Arguments over who most deserves to be remembered as the “true queen” often turn physical and the prominently displayed four-post bed does double duty here as a wrestling ring.  My favorite scene involved Anne Boleyn (Vanessa Hughes) using a bible to defend herself from a cross-wielding Catherine of Aragon (Amy Gorelow).   

The queens race to determine who is the "true queen"

If this sounds silly, well at times it is.  Besides the obligatory decapitation jokes, there were so many cat fights that at times it felt like an ill-conceived reality show (The Reality Wives of the House of Tudor).  But Six Dead Queens also is poignant and refreshing in all the right places and is accented well by several musical numbers that include the queens performing various instruments.  Times were tough in medieval England and a queen here was little more than a servant meant to bare male heirs.  All but two of King Henry VIII’s wives died either in childbirth or by being beheaded at the king’s request.  Against that historical backdrop, the ex-wives live in a type of unexplained purgatory where they keep up with the Royals via tabloids and act out favorite scenes from their own lives.  These relived moments, mostly centered on their wedding night, speak volumes about the unrelenting stress that accompanied their station in life.  Each wife is also given a soliloquy and the actresses make the most of that opportunity to flesh out these ultimately sad and desperate ladies.  In fact it is their stellar performances that elevate Six Dead Queens from simple physical comedy to something better as their characters slowly but surely achieve real growth.  By the time their ex-husband enters the stage (yes, as an “Inflatable Henry”) the crowd is eager to watch the confrontation.  I left the theatre happy to have seen such an original and creative comedy.

Katherine Parr (Denita Linnertz), Catherine of Aragon (Amy Gorelow), Jane Seymour (Berner Taylor), Anna of Cleves (Deborah Craft Proud), Anne Boleyn (Vanessa Hughes), and Kathryn Howard (Nicole Keating)

Vanessa Hughes as Anne Boleyn

Bottom Line:  Six Dead Queens and An Inflatable Henry is recommended for its slapstick humor and creative story.  While not perfect, Six Dead Queens is original and executed perfectly by its actresses. To purchase tickets click here:  http://www.piccolotheatre.com/The-Plays/six-dead-queens-and-an-inflatable-henry.html   It is playing at the Greenhouse Theatre which is located in the heart of Lincoln Park (2257 N. Lincoln).  For more information on this or other performances, click here:  http://www.theatreinchicago.com/

The dead queens seek justice

The cast of Six Dead Queens and An Inflatable Henry

Photos by:  Rep3.com


Published on Sep 15, 2012

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