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This Day in My History


I made Louis take me on Crusade. I dressed my women as Amazons and we rode bare-breasted halfway to Damascus. Louis had a seizure and I damn near died of windburn... but the troops were dazzled.

~Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Lion in Winter

Yesterday's Entries

2000: I'm Mad
  Back in the Groove
2002:  Molly
2003:  After I Leave...


Breakfast:  Special K & toast
Lunch:  Yogurt
Dinner:  BBQ steak w/mushrooms, baked potato, and corn on the cob


The Oath
by John Lescroart


A Streeetcar Named Desire

(Studying for reviewing the play next week)

Buy my stuff at Lulu!



  • I found a new craft store has opened up just a couple of blocks from our house.  I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing about today!

  • Fresh, plump, juicy, sweet cherries that Walt found at the Farmers Market today..

  • Getting the perfect Mother's Day card from Ned, only a couple of weeks late (it had been returned from Boise, where he sent it)




23 May 2004

I don't usually print my reviews here in this journal, but I'm so tickled with the review I wrote for last night's A Lion in Winter that I decided to make an exception (especially since there is nothing much else going on today).  It was a good production and, since I had just watched the movie last week and read up a bit on the history of the period, I decided to have fun with the review.  Here it is...

And you thought your holiday gatherings were awkward.

James Goldman’s classic play, "The Lion in Winter," now at the Woodland Opera House, could easily be subtitled, "The Plantagenet Family Christmas." The production, directed by Lydia Venables, is filled with wonderful actors giving life to some mostly despicable characters.

For starters there’s Henry II (Brian Gruber), who has kept his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, imprisoned in a distant castle for many years while he cavorts with the French princess Alais, who just happens to be both betrothed to his son, and the daughter of Henry’s wife’s first husband, Louis VII of France. It’s all OK, though, because, Eleanor doesn’t really mind. Of course there are rumors that she murdered his previous anamorata, the fair Rosamund, but nothing was ever proven. And besides, Henry has invited her to come home for Christmas.

Henry and Eleanor are both strong-willed, and have a love-hate relationship. They love, detest, fight, and sometimes protect each other.

Their oldest son, Henry, died six months before and the father, who feels his own mortality, must now choose a successor, which sets the stage for the action of the play.

Nobody is ever going to accuse Eleanor (Shelly Sandford) of being a shrinking violet. Married in her teens to Louis, she found herself Queen of France a few days later on the death of her father-in-law. But this medieval feminist, after bearing her husband two children and engaging in a number of torrid affairs herself (including one with Henry’s father), managed to get her marriage annulled. Within two months she had married Henry, over his father’s objections, and five months later bore him the first of seven children.

At the time of the play, Eleanor had taken part in plots against Henry’s Kingship and thus she has been imprisoned in a tower in Salisbury, England for 10 years. She has come to Henry’s Castle at Chinon, France, to make certain that her favorite son, Richard (the Lionheart) is chosen to succeed Henry as King.

"Henry, I don’t much like our children," she tells her husband early in the play.

And a sorry lot they are.

Richard (Dean Shellenberger) is larger than life and, helped by a dazzling costume by Laurie Everly-Klassen, has the bearing of a man who knows he is destined to rule. He is also scheming and conniving, but then there’s that little affair he had with King Phillip of France.

John (Derrick Karimian) is the favorite son of Henry and has all the intelligence of "Welcome Back Kotter"’s Arnold Horshack. He’s whining and petulant and wants what he wants because Daddy loves him best.

Geoffrey (Jon Jackson), the middle son, is nobody’s favorite and feels he’s been neglected by both his parents. He’s grown up by his own wits and is out to screw anybody out of anything and to play all the angles he can to get whatever he can for himself.

Then there’s the lovely Alais (Sarah Levine), daughter of Eleanor’s former husband, mistress of Eleanor’s current husband, betrothed to John and wanting nothing more than to be the wife of Henry, but only if he’ll give up his claim to Eleanor’s beloved Aquitaine. Henry wants to marry Alais off to John, in order to maintain England’s holdings in the country. He assures Alais that her marriage to his son will have no effect on their own love affair.

Complicating things is Alais’ brother Phillip, King of France (Skyler Venables), who has had enough of Henry’s shilly-shallying and who has come to Chinon to demand either Alais’ marriage to John, or the return of her dowry.

This is not a group likely to gather around the wassail bowl and sing Christmas carols.

"What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?" asks Eleanor, in what may be the biggest understatement of all time.

The scenic design by Jeff Kean and Lydia Venables is modest, but effectively gives the feel of a cold, dark French castle. Laurie Everly-Klassen’s costumes remind us at all times that this is winter and there is no central heating (though one wonders why, when everyone else is wrapped in heavy furs, Alais is dressed in a filmy nightgown).

Director Venables has thought of everything. When, after an abortive annulment effort and Henry’s failed attempt to kill Richard, the question of succession is left hanging at the end of the play, the audience is undoubtedly going to want to know the rest of the story. The follow-up history, as well as the Plantagenet family tree, are posted in the lobby at the conclusion of the play.

Lion in Winter runs weekends through June 20.


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The Woodland Opera House

For more photos, please visit My Fotolog and My FoodLog

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