The life and death of Sir Thomas More translates into an engrossing play.
By MARGARET NERY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Little Theatre off Spring Commons, 702 Mahoning Ave., became the setting Thursday night for a challenging play based on the life of one of England's most controversial historical events.
Whether by chance or careful planning, the converted church with its rigid pews seemed the ideal setting in which to bring to life the story of a clash between religion and royalty, and the airing of moral and legal issues.
Using that atmosphere, the Victorian Players recreated the tale of Chancellor Sir Thomas More and his struggle with loyalty to Catholicism, allegiance to his king and his respect for the laws of his country in the 16th century.
Under the well-disciplined direction of Jean McClure Kelty, the play, "A Man for All Seasons," became a seriously realistic portrayal of the turmoil created by King Henry VIII when he sought to divorce Catherine of Aragon and broke away from the Catholic Church to establish the Church of England.
At the center of all the confusion is Sir Thomas More, a renowned writer, statesman and religious zealot. Mac Michael is impressive in the role of More as he agonizes over his inability to agree with the king whom he has grown to respect and to regard as an intimate friend.
Although King Henry VII (played with swashbuckling zeal by John Thompson) has also developed a close relationship with More and enjoys both his company, he demands loyalty at all costs.
Embroiled in a situation he is powerless to avoid because of his deep convictions, More is imprisoned because he refuses to take an oath of supremacy, saying that papal authority cannot be usurped in favor of the king.
Trial is a mockery
When he is brought to court and placed on trial, More is convicted of treason, although he maintains his innocence. The judges find him guilty and rule that decapitation is the punishment for treason.
Among those who connived to destroy More is the villainous Thomas Cromwell (realistically portrayed by Robert Secrist) and his spy, Richard Rich (Scott Hudson).
The only ones to support More are his friend, the Duke of Norfolk (Ray Thompson), More's adoring wife, Alice More, (Dawn Hoon), his daughter Margaret More (Marilyn Higgins) and his free-thinking and often controversial son-in-law William Roper (Joe Higgins).
Rounding out the cast are John Thompson as Cardinal Wolsey; Perc Kelty as the Archbishop; Patty Burgess as the woman; Vern Rodenbaugh as a publican; and Rex Judd as the king's attendant.
But it's the common man, Tom Jones, who steals scene after scene as he explains the plot while serving as narrator and injects subtle comic moments into the otherwise serious drama.
The cast is so well-schooled in the mannerisms and actions of characters that Robert Bolt's play becomes a believable reflection of the time when one man' fate was determined by his loyalty to his God or his king.
For those who tire of the meaningless fluff that is often touted as entertainment, and prefer something with more substance, the answer may be this historically, serious biographic drama "A Man For all Seasons."