North Coast Rep offers a telling ‘The Lion in Winter’


If you go

What: “The Lion in Winter”

When: Matinees, evenings to Jan. 29

Tickets: $32-$49

Where: North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

Box Office: (858) 481-1055


By Diana Saenger

In honor of its 30th anniversary season, North Coast Repertory Theatre will stage “The Lion in Winter,” one of the plays presented during its inaugural year.

Directed by Andy Barnicle, who directed seven plays at NCRT, “The Lion in Winter,” by James Goldman, is a family drama of emotion, wit and great insight that uses the royalty of 12th century England to reveal universal human frailties.

Goldman said he jumped at the chance to direct when NCRT Artistic Director David Ellenstein offered him the job.

“I’ve wanted to get my hands on it ever since I saw it years ago on stage and as the movie,” Barnicle said. “These people have human needs and they react with anger and hurt and are clever in a contemporary way. The script is about language, rhetoric, characters, ideas, and is the kind of play that attracts a director — especially if we have good actors. And we certainly have that in this production.”

The cast includes Mark Pinter (Henry II); Alexandra Grossi (Alais); Kyle Roche (John); Jason Maddy (Geoffrey); Richard Baird (Richard); Kandis Chappell (Eleanor) and Kyle Sorrell (Phillip).

The script is basically the same as previously performed at the Rep, Barnicle said. “People might be familiar with it, especially because of the famous people who created the roles in the film. (Peter O’Toole as Henry II and Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine) but I think enough time has gone by that those memories have faded. Once the play begins, people will forget every thing but what they are watching.

“The play is really good at squeaking exposition out along the way, but you have to pay attention. This is not a history lesson though, it’s much more of a family comedy/drama. The language and characters’ behaviors are very contemporary. The only things really historical are the things at stake like the future of England. It’s really about the relationship between Henry and Eleanor and their children.”

Production designer Marty Burnett created six scenes in Henry’s castle in France on the Rep’s intimate stage. “It is a challenge to stage a play of six or seven characters the way this one surrounds the audience,” Barnicle said. “The actors need to be able to move around and make adjustments to ensure they can be seen and heard all the time. It’s very helpful to have actors who have done it before and are familiar with that stage.”