In This Family Battle, the Throne Is at Stake
Anita Gates
The New York Times

Its Christmas. Dad has brought his new, much younger girlfriend to the country place. Mom, who is living apart from the family, is making a special trip to be with them. Three sons are battling for parental affection and for prized possessions they hope to inherit.

But dont expect to reach these people by cellphone. The father is Henry II of England (Sherman Howard) and the mother is Eleanor of Aquitaine (Lisa Harrow), and they are the central figures of the Shakespeare Theater of New Jerseys handsome, witty new production of The Lion in Winter. One of the possessions is the throne of England, and the battle could become physical. Read more.

'The Lion in Winter' review: Ancient royals bicker like modern sibs in crackling staging in Madison
Peter Filichia
The Star Ledger

The Bard himself might have admired the play that's currently onstage at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

James Goldman's "The Lion in Winter," receiving a splendid production in Madison, is a history — and a tragedy and a comedy — of Shakespearean proportions.

As Shakespeare did in his history plays, Goldman deals with English royalty. Here the dramatis personae include King Henry II of England (1133-1189), Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) as well as their sons — princes Richard, Geoffrey and John. The French monarchy is also on hand, represented by King Philip II (1165-1223) and his half-sister Princess Alais.

The tragedy is in how this so-called royal family interacts with each other. Knives are unsheathed during arguments. Perhaps that's bound to happen when three sons vie to be their father's successor. Read More

Theater review: Newcomers shine in 'The Lion in Winter'
William Westhoven
The Daily Record

When the subject is dysfunctional families, there's no better place to begin than with those wacky Plantagenets.

In James Goldman's "The Lion in Winter," Dad, the king of England, is sleeping with his youngest son's fiance. Mom can't do much about it because Dad locked her up in prison 10 years ago.

Their three sons bicker and plot to be named heir to the throne. But they can barely stand each other, let alone their parents.

Granted, while Goldman's twisted tale is full of real historic characters, "The Lion in Winter" is pure fiction. But what fun it is being a fly on the wall at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, watching these royals flush each other in selfish grabs for power. And it all happens at Christmas, when family conflicts escalate for many of us to this day. Read More.

'The Lion in Winter' The Shakespeare Theatre does a splendid job with James Goldman's royal drama
Bob Brown
The Princeton Packet

PERHAPS most viewers will remember this drama from the 1968 film starring Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Peter O'Toole as her philandering and impetuous husband King Henry II, and a young Anthony Hopkins as Henry's oldest son, Richard Lionheart. As films go, it was a blockbuster of its time, garnering Oscars for Kate and scriptwriter James Goldman, who adapted his play, as well as a nomination for O'Toole.

If you've seen the film, it's hard to dislodge Hepburn's idiosyncratic interpretation of Eleanor from your head, while O'Toole's bellowing, frenetic Henry is almost larger than the screen. That's why it's so refreshing to revisit Goldman's 1966 play as a stage production at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, where the fiery machinations of Henry (Sherman Howard), Eleanor (Lisa Harrow), and sons Richard (Tom Pelphrey), Geoffrey (Devin Norik) and John (Colby Chambers) are at an approachable scale. Read More.

Lion in Winter at Shakespeare Theater in Madison, an unflagging family melodrama
Liz Keill
Independent Press

MADISON -- Are Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine the 12th century version of George and Martha, the vitriolic couple from "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

They certainly fight with flair, but underneath it all have a grudging respect for their ability to surprise, scheme and deceive each other.

The entertaining production at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey looks at both the wit and undercurrents in the James Goldman play. Directed by Paul Mullins, the pace never flags as this family melodrama unfolds.

Sherman Howard is a superb King Henry, majestic and powerful, with glimpses of passion and tenderness thrown in. It's a fascinating contrast to his groveling, pathetic character in Harold Pinter's "No Man's Land," seen earlier this season. Read More

A CurtainUp New Jersey Review: The Lion in Winter
Simon Saltzman
Curtain Up

As I was heading up the aisle after spending a glorious evening with King Henry II, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine and their three sons, I said to a friend, also a critic, "Don't you wish Shakespeare could write like this?" I quickly realized I must have put my foot in it by implying that James Goldman, the author of The Lion in Winter, would or could ever be mentioned in the same breath with the Bard. Oh well, so be it. But I don't regret my instant response to Goldman's wittily conceived play that had its Broadway premiere in 1966. With this production it is Paul Mullin's dramatically compelling direction and seven excellent performances that vividly bring this choice bit of medieval squabbling to life. Read More

Review: The Lion in Winter delivers an ingenious plot
Stuart Duncan

When "The Lion in Winter" opened on Broadway in March of 1966, it won mountains of critical approval, several Tony Award nominations, including a statuette for Rosemary Harris, but the public was not impressed and the show soon folded.

The ingenious plot covers a Christmas season in 1183 with Henry II, King of England, battling verbally with his imprisoned Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, as to which of his three sons should take throne after his death. She prefers Richard; he favors John and neither have much use for Geoffrey. For their part, each of the sons lacks important qualities that might suggest a crown. Geoffrey seems a natural second, always scheming, but never a leader. Richard is very brave, perhaps even a fierce fighter, but exhibits effeminate tendencies. John is a complete mess, socially and physically. The play, documented by historical fact, nevertheless is a fantasy there never was such a Christmas court, and while indeed Henry had a young mistress, and there was indeed a French King, Philip, her brother, and indeed the outcome of the relationships are true enough, the actual days of the play are fictitious. Read more.

Ruth Ross
NJ Arts Maven/News Recorder

James Goldman's Tony Award-winning play, The Lion in Winter has been described as a historic drama, a domestic comedy, a sitcom, a melodrama. So which is it? Why, it's all four, and the play is getting the royal treatment at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, where it is being performed through November 14.

It's Christmas 1183 and the Plantagenet family has gathered at the castle of Chinon to celebrate the holiday. Hosting the festivities is Henry II, King of England, along with his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (released from her castle prison to attend) and their three contrary and quarrelsome sons, Richard, Geoffrey and John. Also in attendance are Alais, princess of France (and Henry's much younger mistress) and her brother, the newly crowned King of France, Phillip. Read more.

The Lion In Winter is a masterpiece of wit at The Shakespeare Theatre of N J
Rick Busciglio
Northern New Jersey Theater Examiner

The Lion In Winter is a very witty, clever drama now on the stage at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey through November 14. This highly fictional story of the very real Plantagenet family that ruled most of Britain and France in the 12th century was written by the late James Goldman, a master of dialogue.

It is an outstanding drama of great wit, and an even more outstanding cast led by Lisa Harrow as Eleanor of Aquitaine (Ms Harrow is a former member of England's Royal Shakespeare Company) and Sherman Howard as a very regal Henry II. The sons are played by: (Daytime Emmy Award-winner) Tom Pelphrey in the role of Richard Lionheart, the eldest son of Eleanor and Henry II; Devin Norik plays Geoffrey, the middle son, and Colby Chambers plays John, the youngest son. Rounding out the marvelous cast are Sean Hudock in the role of young Phillip, the King of France and Laura Campbell in the role of Alais, Phillip's sister and lover of Henry. Read More

"Lion" Roars in Madison
Sherri Rase

Surprisingly, not much has changed in the last nearly thousand years among the relationships of men and women and the men and women who love them. James Goldman's "The Lion in Winter" plays at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey through November 14 and describes domestic infelicity from nearly a millennium ago that sounds all too familiar. An aging, powerful man wants to trade in his wife for a younger model, while battling his sons for all they don't understand and all that they do. When the wife we're speaking of Eleanor of Aquitaine, a monarch in her own right who is far from Adam's rib, the sparks fly almost immediately. Read More.