While the six-part television miniseries “Wolf Hall” continues to run on PBS, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s two-part stage adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novels about the wife-swapping King Henry VIII and his power-hungry crew of advisers has arrived on Broadway.
The two parts can be seen on different days or — if you’re ambitious — on the same day, for six hours of theatergoing.
For the record, I have not read the books, nor did I catch the first installment on PBS, so this review only concerns the stage version.
In Part One, King Henry looks to get rid of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, in order to wed the enticing Anne Boleyn. Meanwhile, tensions rise over the Protestant Reformation and Thomas Cromwell, a small player of low-birth, sees a chance to win favor in the royal court.
In Part Two, the king, angry that Boleyn can’t give him a male heir, casts his eye upon the young and pleasing Jane Seymour and looks to Cromwell to cut him loose from Boleyn — by any means necessary.
Although full of intrigue and cruel twists of fate, “Wolf Hall” is a stiff, step-by-step, plodding march through English history, leaving little space for character development. One-liners and broad jokes have been added in that inappropriately contradict the ominous tone.
Given that Part Two is hardly the end of the King Henry saga, “Wolf Hall” is incomplete as a narrative. Perhaps they should have waited for Mantel to finish all of her books before doing this onstage.