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'Anne' is beautiful look at bad marriage

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River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The Phipps Center production of "Anne of the Thousand Days" is wonderfully cast, skillfully directed and beautifully presented.

That said, I think Anne deserves a medal for living one day with this jerk, let alone 1,000 days. Her untimely demise may have been the most merciful thing that happened to her since she first encountered the world's most infamous chauvinist pig, England's Henry VIII. I'd be curious to know if others in the audience felt any of the anger I did at Henry's self-indulgence and pitiful justification for everything from adultery to murder. It made me glad to be married to a "commoner."

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With that off my chest, let's move on to the wonderful performances turned in by this cast. Kurt Hunsicker as Henry and Mariah Jo Christensen as Anne Boleyn were perfectly matched not only in strength but also in weakness, his for whatever or whoever he couldn't have, hers for a man who couldn't love her and wouldn't make her queen. Together on stage they go from hating to loving to hating each other and put a very personal face on a series of events that led to England's historic break with the Catholic Church.

Christensen portrays Anne as a force to be reckoned with from her first appearance. She is both romantic and pragmatic and never fiercer than when she acts to protect what she believes is her daughter's birthright.

Hunsicker is a very handsome Henry who had the misfortune to be born king. Surrounded by people who often had to choose between telling him the truth or living to see another day, the audience comes to know Henry as a pathetic man whose power brings only pain.

The other historical figures in this story are easily brought to life by H. Wesley McClain as Cardinal Wolsey, Adam King as the evil Thomas Cromwell, Robbie Olson as Anne's uncle and pawn of the king Henry Norris, Craig Oberg as Norfolk and Bridgette McGehee and Doug Blackwell as Anne's parents.

The cast also includes two familiar faces from a very different setting. Hudson teachers Matthew Schoenecker and Kevin Knoke come out of the classroom and take to the stage, tights and all, and are very convincing as Mark Smeaton, friend to Anne and court singer, and Lord Percy, Anne's first love.

The costumes in "Anne" are wonderful, the work of costume designer Judy Kastele, as is the set designed by Hudsonite and UW-RF professor Ken Stofferahn. Director Sue Oberg, together with the talents of lighting designer Rob Rettig, technical director Mark Koski, sound designer Chris Ashwood and music director Sandi Kovatch, has created a time and place where the unthinkable happened.

Praise should also go to the behind-the-scenes talents of stage manager Kasey Jean Tunell, production manager Pamela Lesher, deck captain Simone Manlove and prop experts Heidi Hansen, Maxine Irons and Charlie Thompson.

"Anne of the Thousand Days" runs weekends through May 7. For tickets, contact The Phipps Center at (715) 386-8409 or www.ThePhipps.org.

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