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Gorilla Theater's 'The Lion in Winter' retains its relevance

Robert Hooker plays the role of King Henry II, who must decide which of his sons will ascend to the throne, in The Lion of Winter.

Gorilla Theater

Robert Hooker plays the role of King Henry II, who must decide which of his sons will ascend to the throne, in The Lion of Winter.

By MARTY CLEAR

It's been called a comedy, a satire, a drama and a period piece. The director of the upcoming production describes it as "an historico-dramatic comedy about a tipping point in civilization."

The plot has elements of lust, familial betrayal and international political intrigue and dealmaking, all in a 24-hour period.

So there are myriad ways to look at The Lion in Winter, which is almost universally considered among the richest plays of 20th century American theater.

Gorilla Theater is staging James Goldman's 1966 play for a three-week run starting this evening. Nancy Cole, a longtime University of South Florida faculty member, directs. Local audiences will remember her work from Six Degrees of Separation at Gorilla, and many other local productions.

The play involves Goldman's take on historical events from a millennium ago. Henry II must decide which of his three sons will inherit his throne. He has imprisoned his own wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, for 10 years for conspiring against him, and he has taken a young French mistress named Alais.

For people who don't care about medieval history, the play — which Goldman, an American, wrote to be performed with American accents — has an immediacy for contemporary audiences, Cole said.

"Everyone in the audience has to face the same decisions," she said. "We have to decide what to do with our worth, what will be our legacy, how we want to influence our children."

Cole's cast is mostly made up of locals, including Robert Hooker (a relative newcomer seen recently in Extremities), Caroline Jett (from Jobsite's What the Butler Saw last year) and Joe Winskye, of many Hat Trick Theatre productions.

The Lion in Winter runs through Feb. 6 at the Gorilla Theatre, 4419 N Hubert Ave. in Tampa. Shows are 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 on Thursdays, $25 Fridays-Sundays; seniors/students $15 and $20. $10 student rush 30 minutes before curtain, when available. (813) 879-2914; gorillatheatre.com.

Marty Clear is a Tampa freelance writer who specializes in performing arts. He can be reached at mclear@tampabay.rr.com.

Gorilla Theater's 'The Lion in Winter' retains its relevance 01/12/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 3:30am]

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