“Some of our audience will think it’s Shakespeare and ‘I can never understand that language,’ but this is not one of those shows,” said Miller, who is directing and acting in the play. “The language is so accessible, it’s so well-written.”
James Goldman’s play, which opens Jan. 13 at the Rochester Civic Theatre, is about the conflicts in the family of England’s King Henry II. Henry, his wife, Queen Eleanor, and their three sons, John, Geoffrey and Richard, clash over many things, including who will be the next king.
The play is set at Christmas 1183 at Henry’s castle in Chinon, France. Just as now, families spending time together during the holiday season in the 12th century had their conflicts, rivalries and allies. Of course, in this case, it was a royal family playing a high-stakes game.
“There is such love between the characters, as well as animosity,” Miller said.
“These are kings and queens, and we always associate them with matters of world importance,” Miller said. “This show boils that down to interpersonal relations, the sacrifices we make for ambition. All of this is exciting and more urgent if you’re close to the action.”
Audiences will indeed be close to the action of “The Lion in Winter,” which will be presented in RCT’s new studio theater. The space will be set up with a thrust stage, which Miller described as “almost like being in the round. You’re presenting to people in front of you, to the side of you, behind you. It’s one of those cases where the audience will feel they’re in the room with the characters. We wanted to get the feeling of ‘Oh my gosh, I walked in on this.’”
Miller has cast himself as Henry. “It’s a great part, it’s a part for a more mature man,” he said. “I can identify with him. As you see the time ticking, you think ‘Do I still have time to do everything I wanted to do?’”
The rest of the cast has Laurie Helmers as Queen Eleanor of Acquitaine; Dylon Starr, James Scudamor and Sean Lundberg as the sons John, Geoffrey and Richard, respectively; Lindsay Herr as Alais, Henry’s young mistress; and James Driessen as King Philip II, of France.