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Meet a dysfunctional royal family

The public has always had a fascination with the ruling class of England, or as they're called, The Royals.

Even today, the late Princess Diana is still in the news, as the exploits of her butler are splashed across television screens and newspaper racks in both England and America.

Against this backdrop comes the The Lion in Winter at the Citrus County Art League.

The Lion in Winter by James Goldman, is set in the Middle Ages and deals with the corruption and greed of the royal family. In 1183 A.D., Henry II, ruler of England was at war with his family. The clan and some guests have gathered at one of the king's castles in France.

"It's about a dysfunctional family, albeit a royal family," said Pat Lewkowicz, the play's director.

The hard-edged King Henry (Frank Hanshaw) is constantly feuding with his cynical queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Annie DeLeo). It's mostly a battle to select their favorite son as successor to the throne and to avenge for a lifetime of betrayals.

This family feud is unlike most others. For starters, King Henry keeps the enormously troublesome Queen Eleanor in a prison most of the time. He lets her out for holidays and family gatherings.

"She's evil. She's constantly plotting against him and he needs to keep her locked up," Lewkowicz said.

And there's the pretty French princess Alais (played alternately by Carrie Neuman in Cast A and Erica Hulbert in Cast B). She's only 23, but she's been King Henry's girlfriend since she was 16. She's invited to the family gathering as well.

Her brother, Philip, the young and intelligent King of France (Daniel Lugo in Cast A and Micheil McElvey in Cast B) also comes to the holiday fete, but with a purpose. He either wants Alias' dowry returned or see her married to one of the king's three sons, whoever will be successor to the throne.

"Underneath this all is King and Queen, who fight for years but they have this basic affection. In spite of it all, it's there," Lewkowicz said "He keeps her in prison, but still, he lets her out for Christmas."

The three sons in the middle of this royal war of affection are John (Josh Rigdon), the youngest son, a dimwit and the king's choice for succession; Geoffrey (Luke Witkowski), the brilliant middle son whom neither parent is fond of; and Richard Lionheart (Larry Mitchell), the oldest son and the queen's favorite, mostly because he's also the most power-hungry of the three.

As The Lion in Winter draws to a close, the king flies into a fury and disowns all his sons and imprisons them, leading to the emotional ending when the king and queen must come to terms with their own mortality and their chances of redemption.

_ Jorge Sanchez can be reached at 860-7313 or sanchezsptimes.com.

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