Carol’s Culture Corner Review of The Last Wife

Katherine Parr married Henry VIII July 12, 1543, the last of his six wives. Canadian playwright Kate Hennig, who wrote The Last Wife about Katherine, chose to place the action in modern times since Katherine was more in line with women of today who seek equality for their gender.

Katherine (magnificently characterized by Olivia Saccomanno) has had an ongoing love affair with a soldier, Edward Seymour (Caleb Slavens). When Henry (David Hunt Stafford) asks her to marry him, she is reluctant to accept his proposal. He certainly would not be considered an ideal husband, particularly being aware of her relationship with Edward. But on second consideration she changes her mind in the hopes that she might have an influence on more independence for women.

At first their marriage is tense, but Katherine uses her intelligence and womanly wiles and turns out to be the only woman who seems able to find Henry’s soft spot. Becoming stepmother to his surviving children from his previous marriages, she oversees the education of Mary (Nathalie Rudolph), Bess (Lily Daugherty), and Edward (Andrew Grigorian).

While Edward is the heir apparent to the throne upon the death of Henry VIII, through Katherine’s actions and perseverance, Mary and Bess fall in the line of succession, which in turn, makes them women of royalty. When Henry leaves to go to war, he makes Katherine England’s Queen Regent. This is Katherine’s accomplishment for the women of her country.

Long-time Artistic Director of the MET Theatre, L. Flint Esquerra, directs an outstanding cast in this production. David Hunt Stafford fulfills his role as Henry VIII convincingly while also continuing in his role as Artistic/Managing Director of Theatre 40 and Producer of the play. Resident Set Designer, Jeff G. Rack, once again, creates a perfect set for this production.