Long Beach Shakespeare Company’s Falstaff and Prince Hal

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Photo by Dana Leach
From left: Gerardo Macias, Leonardo Lerma, Kevin McGrath and Jo McLachlan in Long Beach Shakespeare Company’s Falstaff and Prince Hal

In honor of William Shakespeare’s birthday month, the Long Beach Shakespeare Company (LBSC) is presenting two “old-time radio” plays, the first of which, Falstaff and Prince Hal, continues at the Richard Goad Theatre through April 15 and centers on the boozing, exaggeration-prone Sir John Falstaff and his witty interactions with the young Prince Henry, or Hal. You can then see Falstaff fall in love in LBSC’s Merry Wives of Windsor later this month.

Performed as a late-1930s radio broadcast, Falstaff and Prince Hal takes passages from Shakespeare’s history play Henry IV, Part I and voices those parts with sound effects as if in a real Long Beach radio studio, KBRD, complete with commercials.

In excerpting and adapting the play, artistic director Brandon Alexander Cutts notes that the aging Falstaff has a “boyish charm that never seems to grow up, like a less adventurous Peter Pan with a drinking problem,” making him an entertaining subject for this one-hour production.

We see (or rather, hear) Falstaff interacting with the young Prince Hal, both in the tavern and on the battlefield, playing pranks and exchanging witty insults while drinking endless rounds of “sack” before venturing into war with a rebel faction led by the Percy family.

In one engaging tavern scene, Falstaff and Hal role-play, with Falstaff as Hal and the boy speaking as his own father, King Henry IV, who expects him to face up to his obligations rather than cavort with his friends.

Gerardo Macias voices Prince Hal with charm, with Kevin McGrath reading the part of Falstaff. RJ Brownfield engages as Hal’s friend Poins, and Andy Kallok and Byron Spearman round out the cast, voicing their supplementary characters distinctly and humorously.

The battle scene is enhanced with real swords clashing. You’ll also enjoy hearing Falstaff on the battlefield philosophize about why honor doesn’t matter as much as survival to justify his playing dead, and then listen to him exaggerate his role in the war.

The talented Jo McLachlan directs and performs some of the smaller parts, sound effects and music, using a harmonica and small accordion. Leonardo Lermas handles most of the other effects and voiceover, and they both contribute to the very entertaining commercials promoting local businesses and the Long Beach Historical Society.

Hearing Falstaff’s witticisms, insults and embellishments is a fitting way to toast “the Bard” during his birthday month. This radio-style performance keeps the emphasis on Shakespeare’s words, which the passionately committed LBSC crew bring to life.

Falstaff and Prince Hal continues at the Richard Goad Theatre, 4250 Atlantic Ave., through April 15, with shows Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $12.50. For tickets and information, call (562) 997-1494 or visit LBShakespeare.org.