Published in the March 27, 2017 edition.


READING — In their current production, “The Lion in Winter,” Quannapowitt Players have resurrected James Goldman’s highly acclaimed 1966 play, which chronicles the dysfunctional (but frequently amusing) skullduggery within the family of King Henry II of England. The Broadway play was so successful that it was adapted by Goldman into a 1968 Oscar-winning movie starring Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn.

The QP production is ably directed by Wakefield’s J. Mark Baumhardt.

Henry had conquered much of western France, and the action takes place at Christmastime in 1183 at Henry’s castle in Chinon. The play chronicles the plotting and machinations within the royal family after Henry (played by Chris Cardoni) announces his intention, as he turns 50, to name his heir to the throne.

Each of Henry’s three sons wants to be named his successor. They, along with Henry’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Kathryn Gluck), plot to force Henry’s hand. Eleanor is no stranger to conspiracies. Henry has had her in prison for years for leading previous plots against him.

As the play opens, Henry announces that his youngest son, John (played by Damien Dakotah LaCount) will inherit the throne. This decision does not sit well with Henry’s eldest son, Richard Lionheart (Andrew Rhodes) or the middle son Geoffrey (Nate Johnson).

Nor does it please Eleanor, mercifully allowed out of jail to join her loving family for the holidays. She allies with Richard.

Henry has also promised the young King of France, Philip (Phillip Esposito), that Alais, Philip’s sister (Nicole Frattaroli), will marry Richard. Henry also promises 23-year-old Alais that she can remain his mistress.

If it all sounds very confusing it’s because it is. Part of it is that democratically raised Americans are many generations removed from a time of royalty when marriage and children were little more than a means to acquire power and territory.

But mostly any confusion is the result of the duplicitous machinations and shifting alliances of all of the family members. The level of lying and manipulation is such that it becomes almost impossible to know who wants what and who is telling the truth at any given moment.

But as long as you understand that it’s all about the lust for power and territory, you needn’t let the details trouble you. Just sit back and enjoy Goldman’s beautifully written (and often very funny) script as performed by this talented cast of actors.

It’s probably just as well that director Baumhardt didn’t ask his actors affect any sort of British accents, although reverting to the softer “R” sounds of the New England dialect might not have hurt.

There are some great lines, including a few self-mocking jabs at Medieval England. During a skirmish among the brothers, one yells, “He’s got a knife!” Eleanor deadpans, “Of course he’s got a knife. We all have knives. It’s 1183 and we’re barbarians.”

QP’s “The Lion in Winter” gracefully revisits Goldman’s modern classic, barbarians and all.


Quannapowitt Players present “The Lion in Winter” on March 31 and April 1, 2, 7 and 8. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. Sunday performances are at 2 p.m. Purchase tickets online at or phone 781-942-2212.