A Man for All Seasons — the joint Mercury/Shawningan Lake Players' production continuing this week from March 22-25 at the Mercury Theatre — is not a historical costume play.
It's presented in simple "black box" style, with no scenery, minimal props, and only the costumes and a narrator to tell you who's who.
But, with a story — and acting — of this quality, you don't need more.
The writing by Robert Bolt and the direction by Breann Landry combine with superlative characterizations by the actors to make the tale of a good man who walks towards certain death with his eyes wide open come to life, and the stark black stage only enhances the dark political miasma swirling around Sir Thomas More, played by Alex Gallacher.
The desperate days when King Henry VIII of England was trying to rid himself of his wife, Katherine of Aragon, so as to marry exciting — and hopefully fertile — Anne Boleyn so he could father a son to keep his dynasty going, were tough on anyone connected to the court or the church. The king's "secret matter" was ripping the country apart with Catholics backing Katherine's right to remain queen and the reformists wanting change for a variety of seasons.
More, a staunch Catholic, who is also known as a fiercely honest man, will not bend with the political wind, even though the king and his chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, try to cow him into submission. Everything in the story revolves around that single thread: his refusal to accept the idea of the king's divorce.
In addition to Gallacher's riveting performance as Sir Thomas, other real standouts include Rien Vesseur as Matthew, the Common Man; Noah Robertson as Richard Rich; Matt Williams as Cromwell; Bob Norris as Chapuys; and Jacob Dennison as King Henry.
Maggie Sullivan is also excellent as Alice, and Ted Eden as Cardinal Wolsey: two people who see King Henry and his plans with clearer eyes than the more trusting Sir Thomas.
All performances start at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students. Get them at Ten Old Books, and First Chiropractic in Duncan, Beachology in Cowichan Bay, Mason's in Shawnigan Lake, or phone 250-510-1746.