What I learned. . .

I’d been itching to do another play with Tom Story, ever since we worked together on Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde at Missouri Rep. Hal seemed an ideal opportunity; not only was Tom now living in Washington, DC, his princely good looks, native intelligence, quick wit and superb verse-speaking skills were an ideal fit for the role.  I’d worked with David Graham Jones a few times, but nothing prepared me for his audition as Hotspur: he knocked it out of the park – and as we worked together on the production, David helped me appreciate the way in which Hotspur and Mercutio are similar: white-hot passion matched with an all-consuming need to speak, nay, to act.  

Rick Fouchex had originally been cast as Falstaff, but at his suggestion, we reassigned him as Henry; Delaney Williams had the physical heft for Falstaff, and it was clear he would be the off-center center of the production.

I always like it when there are a few anchors in a cast who know me well (Tom; David) and with whom I’ve got short-hand and trust (and who can assure actors new to me not to worry: it’ll all turn out all right in the end); and actors with whom I am just beginning to get acquainted (Rick; Delaney).  I’d met Rick and seen his work; Delaney was completely new to me.  To say we came from opposite ends of the spectrum in the ways in which we approach Shakespeare would be an understatement of the highest order . . .  I’m not sure I’ve had an actor, before or since, who employed the voice of Elmer Fudd at a table read. . .  but in the end, we found our way to the middle and Delaney’s Falstaff was vivid, unique, indelible. . .  and a total crowd pleaser.

I loved working at the Folger.  It’s a tiny space, and in so many ways perfect for the intimate story Henry IV tells.  Tony Cisek’s textured walls gave us space and grandeur when we needed them; Kate Turner-Walker’s clothes kept the several worlds within the play clear and distinct; and Dan Covey’s lights were a miracle.

I could not have asked for a better directorial debut in our nation’s capitol.

Henry IV, Part One

Folger Theatre

October, 2008

Delaney Williams, Tom Story

“By odd coincidence (or perhaps not), there are two dramas now playing in Washington theaters that tell the stories of wild young men destined for high office.  Each man misspends his youth skulking in the shadow of a powerful father, resentful of the patriarch’s success and yet eager for his approval.  One drama is the Folger Library’s superb production of Henry IV, Part 1, Shakespeare’s saga of the errant Prince Hal who, repenting his prodigal ways, promises that when “this loose behavior I throw off. . .  my reformation, glittering o’er my fault, shall show more goodly.”  Hal does redeem himself in just this way, ultimately becoming (two plays later) the hero of Agincourt, King Henry V.”

    Michael Hirsch


“Lucid and likeable. . . the Folger production is perched on a compelling axis.”  “. . . this staging by Paul Mason Barnes is notable for its clear explication of how personal grievances drive public turmoil in Henry IV’s England.”  “Barnes has staged Shakespeare in many parts of the country but is only now making a directorial foray into Washington.  It’s a good beginning.  Barnes uses the intimate Folger playhouse to ensure that we listen to all of the characters.  This is not Shakespeare history play as panoramic epic, so much as a series of close-ups.”  “The bedrock comedy scenes . . .  are staged with vigor.  It’s a mark of the staging that a number of actors in smaller roles allow the canvas to appear so well-painted.  The most unconventional performance may be that of [David Graham] Jones, who is a Hotspur of a different temperature. . .  his take on the character permits an audience to mourn what befalls Hotspur in the battlefield duel that crystallizes Hal’s kingly trajectory.”

    Peter Marks

    The Washington Post

“Heroic, engaging. . . forceful.”  “Impeccably cast and featuring a handful of outstanding performances, director Paul Mason Barnes has given us a visually handsome Henry that is equally compelling in the barroom and on the battlefield.”

    Jayne Blanchard

    The Washington Times

“Quietly compelling. . .”

    Trey Graham

    Washington City Paper

“Thanks to Paul Mason Barnes’ even-handed direction, teasing humor from the blood and thunder, one of Shakespeare’s most nuanced works unfolds with the roller-coaster ease of a soap opera and resounds with the importance of an indelible piece of history.”

    Adaora Otiji

    The Washington Express

“Paul Mason Barnes’ direction deftly balances the more intimate moments of the play with the blood and thunder of the climatic battle scenes.  Thankfully, this is Shakespeare served straight up, without any attempts to reinterpret the material or impose postmodern touches.  An excellent theatrical experience.”

    Doug Krentzlin

    The Washington Examiner

“A strong production of one of the Bard’s more complicated and truly funny plays. The Folger has done a fine job bringing the political scheming, backroom double dealing and drunken horseplay of Henry IV, Part I to the stage.”

    Tom Avila

    Metro Weekly

"Folger’s Henry IV Part I is surprising not for its emotional impact – our first looming image of a lone royal chair, surrounded by fog and lush drapery lends the show an initial grandeur that never really disappears.  What’s surprising is just how much fun it all is.”

    Missy Frederick


“A spirited, handsome production with all the hurly-burly one can want brightens the cozy Folger Theatre stage. . .  Paul Mason Barnes’s staging features a vigorous, exemplary cast full of brawny and sinewy presence and magnetism.  Barnes’s overall vision is straightforward, without unnecessary embellishment or pretentious glitz, giving a clear understanding of the angst ridden lives of royalty and Henry’s capacity to draw others to him and influence them to take action.  The work of the featured cast is a pleasure to behold.”

    David Siegel

    Potomac Stages

“Straightforward and engaging.  Paul Mason Barnes, making his Washington directing debut, has assembled an accomplished cast with three strong anchors:  Delaney Williams, a spirited and appealing Sir John Falstaff; Rick Fouchex, a grave and intense King Henry IV; and Tom Story as Prince Hal, torn between the extremes of hedonism and duty.”

    Susan Berlin

“Magnificently powerful.”

“What distinguishes this production is the vividness of Hotspur’s tale, made so by the superb quality of the actors who are in it. I begin with the incandescent [David Graham] Jones as Hotspur himself, as radiant and charismatic as a young God.”  “The magnificence of the Hotspur scenes are not at the expense of the rest of the play.  We tend to think of Falstaff as a hardy baud, as if a bottle of Falstaff beer had come to life.  [Delaney] Williams gives him a much more subtle and complex personality, living a life of desperate improvisation.”  “The best work I’ve seen [Tom] Story [Prince Hal] do, by a substantial margin.  By the end of the play, he owns the role. [Rick] Fouchex, too, does very fine work in the title role.  This is the first time I’ve seen him do Shakespeare and I hope I will see him again, many times.  In general, the talent pool in this play is amazingly deep.”

    Tim Treanor

    DC Theatre Scene

“The Folger Theater contains a full-blown, boisterous, brawling, bellicose world within its doors, where Shakespeare’s triumphant Henry IV, Part 1 is being staged by director Paul Mason Barnes as an intimate epic. In the small world of this theater, clarity is all, you pay attention to every word, and the nearly three-hour length, far from becoming tiring or tedious, seems to close too soon.”  “It’s a beautiful production, where Delaney Williams dominates like a besmirched sun as Falstaff, with David Graham Jones as Hotspur, Rick Fouchex as the king, and Tom Story as Prince Hal rolling around him like Mars, Earth, and Jupiter.”

    Gary Tischler

    The Downtowner

“Great show and great cast directed impeccably by Paul Mason Barnes.”

    Rich Massabny

    Arlington Weekly News TV, Comcast Channel 69

“Folger Theatre’s season opener. . . is magnificent for the development of complex characters in inter-family relationships and for handling political struggles.  Paul Mason Barnes directed this excellent production with special touches from Tony Cisek who translated ‘the bright metal on a sullen ground’ in a pivotal moment in the play and from Casey Kaleba who choreographed the fight scenes with great dramatic effect on this small stage.  Bottom line: For an evening of great history and great entertainment. . .  turn off the TV set and go for the real thing at the Folger.”

    Celia Sharpe

“Thrilling.  Great wit, style, and energy.  Riveting.  Highly recommended.”

    Marilou Donahue

    Artistically Speaking