Rudolf II - Reviews

“One of many questions posed by this play is: if you had essentially unlimited riches at your command, would you choose to squander them on science and art or on national defense? (Which answer is the truly mad one?)

“Which is not to say that Rudolf II is not insane; while the sometimes over-the-top first act of Einhorn’s play details the emperor’s wild and diverse obsessions and passions, the exquisitely sad and touching second act shows us the ruins of the mind that had been capable of conceiving them. Rudolf’s illness, possibly inherited... is very real and genuinely tragic.

“The play, which makes no claim to being a true historical account, is entirely true to the obsessions of its author. Key themes from Einhorn's work emerge here: the scientific quest for knowledge and the ways in which that can clash with faith; the mysterious path of mental illness; religious (in)tolerance and what it means to be a Jew.

“Rudolf is an immense role, and Timothy McCown Reynolds gives the immense performance that the play requires and deserves. Particularly in the poignant second act, where we witness the decline of a startling intellect, Reynolds brings potency and conviction to a larger-than-life character.

Rudolf II is the kind of audacious, ambitious, commercialism-be-damned play that makes indie theater so special and worthwhile. I am very glad to have seen it, and to have been exposed to the historical figures and profound ideas that it trades in. A most stimulating event!”

Martin Denton
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"Director Henry Akona could not have chosen a more palatial location to stage ... “Rudolf II” than the Grand Ballroom of the newly restored Bohemian National Hall .... With its high ceilings, new crown moldings, iron handrails and sparse, yet deliberate set design, accompanied by a live chorus and musical ensemble—the Grand Ballroom gives you a sense that you’re entering a royal palace.

"One of the many entertaining aspects of the play, besides the location, is playwright Edward Einhorn’s penchant for witty dialogue. .... These are the moments that make “Rudolf” the play as memorable as it is fun to watch. The costumes are exquisite and rarely do audiences have the chance to experience the detailing (from the turquoise table used for divination to the men’s slinky tights to the hooks and eyes on the women’s corsets) so closely. The play includes a life chorus and a 4-piece musical ensemble that includes a guitar, violin, flute, and clarinet. The overall production looks expensive and belies the $18 entrance fee. Live music; live singing, and live theatre all for under $20? You’d have to be “Habsburg mad” not to go see “Rudolf II.”

Antonio Cerna
Read the full review at Homo-Neurotic

“You’ve heard of Edward II, Richard III, and Henrys IV, V and VI. Rudolf II? It turns out Rudolf II, who ruled Bohemia, Hungary, and Croatia from roughly 15721608, had quite an interesting story. And playwright Edward Einhorn has imagined and presented it in a manner that is nothing short of dazzling. 

“Mr. Einhorn is an accomplished playwright who confidently breathes life into a complex and paranoid ruler who was uniquely unqualified to rule. Yet, Mr. Einhorn also captures Rudolf’s eccentricity, humanity, contradictions and humor. The love scenes between Rudolf and his mistress Katerina (Yvonne Roen) are playful and sweet. Ms. Roen expertly plays the apprehensive and long-suffering mistress, loving Rudolf despite his numerous dalliances and his open long-term affair with his chamberlain, Philip Lang (Jack Schaub). Each actor in this production is greatly talented; there are no weak links. Standouts include Eric Oleson as Rumpf, Rudolf’s first and candid chamberlain, and the bearish Joe Gately as the great but haughty Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe. Carla Gant’s costuming can only be described as majestic and Ian W. Hill’s lighting has a touch of the surreal. 

“It takes chutzpah and no small amount of self-confidence to pen a historical play such as this. Mr. Einhorn surely grasps the magnitude of the undertaking and turns the effort into an unmitigated success. You don’t need to be a scholar of the Austro-Hungarian empire to enjoy this play; all you need is the willingness to be entertained and enlightened.”

William Coyle 
Full review at Off-Off Online

“The show is great. The acting is phenomenal and it’s one of those off-off-Broadway shows that really should be off-Broadway so it gets the audience it deserves. 

“Timothy McCowan Reynolds plays Rudolf and is ... nothing short of incredible. Reynolds’ portrayal is sad, funny, charming, frightening, sexy and pathetic all at once and he never slows down.

“As good as he is, others in the cast step right up to his level. His mistress Katerina is played by Yvonne Roen and she too is quite good. At first we see her as merely a sex object for Rudolf but as the play evolves it is clear that she very much loves this man who is the father of her children. Roen can switch from playful to serious on a dime and her final scene with Rudolf is heartbreaking when she sees that the love of her life is losing his battle with sanity. Other standouts in the cast are Joe Gately who plays the famous astronomer Tycho. Although his scenes are brief, his moment with Rudolf as he begs to “let me not seem to have lived in vain” is the dramatic highlight of the show. His desire for success is so real that it hurt me to see Tycho realize that he may not achieve all he dreamed of. Shelley Ray gives comic relief playing Elizabeth, the poet who may or may not have the ability to contact the dead. She is like that goody-two-shoes we all know and hate and she does a great job when the spirit speaks through her. Jack Schaub plays Philip, Rudolf’s servant and love interest, with a naive eagerness in Act I and a grounded maturity in Act II. Eric E. Oleson is wonderful as Rumpf, who only has loyalty to Rudolf despite the Emperor's paranoia and distrust.

“Director Henry Akona makes wonderful use of the newly refurbished Bohemian National Hall. It really lets the audience feel they too are in the bed chambers of the Emperor. The live musicians and singers in the balcony providing music throughout the show and during the scene changes, add even more to this environmental production. Akona finds the right balance between the serious nature of the show and the comedy that happens even in the most serious of moments. Carla Grant’s costumes are rich and Ian W. Hill’s gorgeous lighting is warm. Writer Edward Einhorn should be commended on this world premiere. The play is great. It's got everything and it should have more of a life that just an Equity showcase.

“I didn’t just like this show, I loved it. It proves that an off-off-Broadway production can be just as inspiring as a show that has a huge budget and weeks and weeks of out of town try-outs. This show could be put into any off-Broadway house and have a very successful run. Get a ticket now, I doubt you'll regret it.”

Darron Cardosa
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“What I really found captivating about this play is the use of language. Through the play is set in 1600 Prague, the language is modern and Mr. Einhorn does a great job of conveying how each character felt about this demanding emperor. 

“The directing by Henry Akona is superb and set as a theatre in the round. Also, adding small details add to the atmosphere: a group of singers who chant, the terrific color pallet, and the costumes. For a play set in only one spot, the audience never gets bored. There is so much action with very clear dialogue.

“The cast is great and I must say an outstanding tour deforce performance by Timothy McCown Reynolds.”

Neal B.
Read the full review at nealbinnyc

“Timothy McCown Reynolds acquits himself well as the hapless Rudolf, Yvonne Roen is particularly human and moving as Rudolf’s mistress Katerina, and Shelley Ray gives a chilling performance as the bigoted, conniving poet Elizabeth. Moreover, musicians and chorus add ambience to the scene and the Grand Ballroom itself provides an impressive setting.

“Happily, Einhorn concludes his play with a positive view of Rudolf’s place in history. Though Rudolf’s lack of leadership led to disastrous wars, his tolerant views would usher in new enlightened thinking, a promise for a future age.”

Irene Backalenick
Madman, Monster, Mystic or Modern Man