Lawyer and statesman Sir Thomas More was a man of great intellect and pragmatic perspective. He became a confidante of King Henry VIII, a friendship that led to his execution in 1535 when he would not support the willful king’s desire to divorce Queen Catherine. More, a man of principle and a devout Roman Catholic, refused to recognize the supremacy of the king and the Church of England he established. Despite his unjust demise, More today remains “a man for all seasons,” a description by one of his contemporaries adopted by Robert Bolt as the title of his 1962 play.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company (CSC) opens its 2011-2012 season with A Man for All Seasons, featuring veteran local actor Bruce Cromer in the heady, demanding role of More. Cromer makes him witty, caring, sharp and cantankerous, an admirable verbal combatant — ultimately more fearful of being unfaithful to his conscience than to his king. More’s testy, plainspoken wife Alice is played with unvarnished conviction by Annie Fitzpatrick, and Sara Clark is their glib, well-educated daughter.
CSC’s cast of 13, mostly drawn from its acting company, enlivens this engaging historical drama, especially Jim Hopkins’ ebullient Henry VIII, Brent Vimtrup’s brash but caring Norfolk and Carey Davenport’s self-serving Richard Rich, the courtier whose perjury enables More’s execution. Nick Rose needs to more fully embrace the role of the villainous Thomas Cromwell, the attorney who carries out Henry’s bidding. Jeremy Dubin does a fine job in an array of small roles (employing various British accents) as “The Common Man,” serving as an ironic commentator who knits the story together and engages the audience. Brian Phillips’ solid direction of Bolt’s talky, philosophical script keeps it compelling from start to finish, serving up a portrait of a man who knew his mind and lived (and died) accordingly.
A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, presented by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, continues until Oct. 2. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.