‘Lion’ a dark comedy of royal intrigue

DeKALB – Stage Coach Players will present “The Lion in Winter,” a dark comedy depicting the personal and political conflicts of the royal family of King Henry II of England.

This 1966 play by James Goldman opens Thursday, Sept. 12, at Stage Coach Theater and runs weekends through Sept. 22.

Set during a not-so-festive Christmas in 1183 at Henry’s castle, the play opens with the arrival of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry’s wife and the queen, whom he has had imprisoned for the past decade for treason.

What ensues is a story of gamesmanship between Henry, Eleanor, their three surviving sons, Richard, Geoffrey and John, their guest, King Philip II of France, and Philip’s half-sister, Alais, who is Henry’s mistress and betrothed to Richard.

The main event is the no-holds-barred battle of wits between Henry (Norm Read) and Eleanor (Amanda-Claire Lowe). They are at odds over which of their three sons will succeed Henry when he dies, but beneath the verbal jousting is an undying love of the game, and, very possibly, each other.

The three sons could scarcely be more different. Eleanor’s favorite, Richard, (Scott Montavon), is unstoppably ambitious. Henry’s choice, for some reason, is the feckless 16-year-old John (Dalton Bates). Left out of the power equation and bitterly determined is Geoffrey (Jeffrey Svendsen), an utterly ruthless opportunist.

But then, ruthless pretty much describes every character, including Alais (Anya Helm) and her brother, Philip (Jacob Aust). All are quite practiced in the deadly dance of maneuver, plot, and counter-plot.

“Although this play is set in the Middle Ages, it could easily slot right into current television fare,” director David W. Booth said. “We have reality TV and a dysfunctional family all rolled into a prime-time theater production.”

'The Lion in Winter'

Sept. 12 – 14 and 19 – 22

7:30 p.m. weeknights and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sunday

Stage Coach Theater, 126 S. Fifth St., DeKalb

Tickets: $12

815-758-1940 or

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