In a timely manner with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the upcoming coronation of King Charles III, a not quite so simple transition befell Henry VIII with several offspring claiming their right to the throne of England.
Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre presents “The Last Wife,” the story of Katherine Parr, the wife that survived the brutal nature of King Henry VIII. A catchy rhyme explains his six marriages: Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Now hear the story of his final wife, Katherine who, after his passing, dealt with Prince Edward, Princess Mary, and Princess Elizabeth, who all reigned England, separately.
Katherine ruled alongside Henry as Queen Consort and aided in the education and order among step-children Mary, Elizabeth, and Edward (Mary I, Elizabeth I, Edward VI). All three were destined to rule, but not in that order. Lady Jane Gray was named by Edward to succeed him. That worked initially, but Lady Jane Gray only ruled for nine days before Mary had her beheaded and overtook the throne as Mary I of England.
The play tells the story of Henry’s progressive illness and the inner-conflicts reaching a crescendo. And, as with every drama, tension mounts when a love interest blossoms outside a marriage. In this case, Thomas ignites the passion. Katherine risks her own life when engaging in a romance with Thomas.
“The Last Wife” provides a contemporary look without the vintage, period costuming. Without those costumes, the cast delivery of the play overcomes the lack of voluminous costumes.
Give credit to the casting of the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre. Director Karen Paisley always assembles an array of characters who can portray exactly what she wants. The cast is: Elizabeth Hillman as Katherine Parr, Forrest Attaway as Henry VIII, Patty Whitlock as Mary, Michael Scahill as Thomas, Sophie Payton as Elizabeth, Sawyer Downey as Edward.
In her first lead role at the MET, Elizabeth Hillman commands the stage. Her performance proves she can hold the stage, even when paired with other strong actors. The role allows Hillman to display a range of emotions and levels to her character as the play unfolds.
As King Henry VIII, Forrest Attaway returns to the stage after several years of hiatus. Like always, his characters are strong and his stage presence dominating. It is good to see him on stage again. He plays well with Hillman’s Katherine..
Michael Scahill plays the love interest of Katherine and provides the match to ignite the story. Without the dangerous affair, the play would not succeed. Scahill continues to develop and secure bigger and more juicy characters. But, the best scene is with the young Edward. It’s charming.
Rounding out the cast, Patty Whitlock and Sophie Payton play the jealous daughters who realize that even older than Edward, the crown will bypass them for the eldest (and only male heir). Both young actresses give strong performances even though their roles limit their character development. Watch for these two in subsequent Kansas City productions. Sawyer Downey plays the young Edward, heir to the throne. The part is small, yet he draws the audiences attention with each minute onstage. He, too, will see more and more time on stages if he continues to pursue acting.
“The Last Wife” runs one more weekend at the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre in the historic Warwick Theatre. Tickets may be purchased online or at the door.
Tags: MET, Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, The Warwick, Kansas City, Kansas City Theatre, Arts & Entertainment, Theatre