Accessibly Live Offline Review of The Last Wife

Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills presents Kate Henning’s THE LAST WIFE, a dramatic play that takes its focus upon Katherine Parr, who would become the sixth and final wife of King Henry VIII, the ruler of the British empire.

David Hunt Stafford plays King Henry VIII. Olivia Saccomanno portrays Katherine Parr. She’s a widow that came from well bred stock. She becomes through default the mother to Henry’s children from his previous wife consisting of elder daughter Bess (Lily Daugherty) who later in life would become Queen Elizabeth I, adolescent aged Mary (Nathalie Rudolph), who would be known as “Bloody Mary”, and eight year old Eddie (Andrew Grigorian), who would be next in line as heir to the royal throne, becoming King Edward VI. The play opens with Henry within the company of Katherine, who he would eventually marry. She has a role in running the British empire with the study of ships to use for war by the Navy, the empire’s strongest military force. When Henry goes off to war with France, she becomes Queen by default. She is rather intelligent and knows how to run a nation, even trusting Henry’s daughters to become involved in some method of rule. However, Katherine has a fling with nobleman Thomas Seymour (Caleb Slavens). This causes a possibility for Katherine to be charged with the crime of adultery, and have her head cut off by guillotine–the same death as a few of Henry’s previous wives faced.

This play by Kate Henning takes a number of actual episodes of the King of England’s final years (he would eventually die, making his son king at the age of nine) and places its emphases on Katherine Parr. What also makes this play rather unique is that it’s not a “costume epic”. (Henry VIII ruled in the 16th century.) Every cast member is donning 21st century-era clothing. Henry wears a blue business suit, and Katherine wears a gown. Some of the dialogue is also from the present day as well. However, the play still sticks to the persona of the 1500s, meaning there are no electronic devices in use, only hardcover books as literature and, to discuss, trade and war ship statistics.

L. Flint Esquerra directs this show that moves in a well paced fashion, in spite of the fact that its running time is two hours and twenty minutes, including intermission. However, one will receive their money’s worth as this play shows the emotional strength of the women roles in terms of power and respect–something that was missing during this period of time.

Jeff Rack, Theatre 40’s residential set designer, creates a set that resembles a lavish contemporary palace that consists of blue-green marbled walls, situated within its center a “grand” staircase that only consists of a few steps. This method shows how a king’s castle can be in a world of now that doesn’t resemble anything from the Tudor era. Many old-fashion steak houses sports such a decor. This set is anything but!

THE LAST WIFE is a play that has a lot going for it, keeping the look and feel of a post-modern period. (The king doesn’t wear a crown, either!) But even with his presence, you know who should really be in charge! Rue Britannia!