War, Politics, and Religion: Powerful Reflection on Contemporary Themes at Shakespeare Tavern (Review)

I couldn't resist spreading the news of the Atlanta premier of Shakespeare's "King John" at The New American Shakespeare Tavern. I went to see it this past weekend, mostly because I didn't think I'd ever get the chance to see this play live, but came away MARVELING at its power.

Set in the time of the Crusades, this play is a brutally honest look at war, politics, and religion.

Regardless of your political affiliation, you will be moved by the depth of Constance's grieving motherhood, played brilliantly by Laura Cole in Act 3.

  • You will see heads of state break their words...to bring peace!...and then be forced back into war by a self-interested church.
  • You will feel both entertained and saddened to hear heralds of each side claim victory, simultaneously.
  • You will see men of small intellect make heroically moral choices.
  • You will see the church's representative, played disdainfully by Tony Brown, seem the very incarnation of the power of evil (look for his dramatically quiet exit in the middle of Act 3), but then be unable to stop the war he ignited.
  • You will see a newlywed - with ties to both sides in this war - crying out for peace.
  • You will weep with King John at his mother's death and marvel at the innocence of Arthur''s youth.

As in many of Shakespeare's plays, it is the outsider - the illegitimate bastard - who expresses the most scathing evaluations of the true nature of war, politics and religion. And, as in all plays at the Tavern, there are moments of superb humor to cushion these thought-inducing themes as well as delicious food and adult beverages.