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The Lion in Winter: A royal feast


Sun, Dec 10th, 2000
Posted in

Monday, September 18, 2000

"The Lutheran tongues will be wagging," one theater goer said to me after seeing Commonweal Theatre's staging of The Lion in Winter.

He was right. The Lion in Winter is a medieval soap opera chock full of court intrigue, conniving monarchs and whining princes. Throw in some first rate cursing, a smattering of adultery, familial imprisonment and the hint of homosexuality, and you have the makings for a royal feast.

As is always the case, the Commonweal Theatre acting is superb. The Lion in Winter is a showcase for the talents of husband and wife actors, Hal Cropp and Kristen Underwood, as the feuding King Henry II and, his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

The story takes place in 1183 with Henry II and Eleanor, whom Henry has banished from the court, reuniting for Christmas. Young Henry, the heir to the throne, has just died and the two monarchs battle over which of their three sons will be next in line to be King: Richard the warrior, the cunning Geofrey or the snivelling John.

Cropp's Henry II is a roaring, boastful, omnipotent emperor. At a time when marriages of alliance were common, and princesses were thrown into the pot in order to secure a treaty, Henry was probably the most powerful man on earth - and Cropp makes the audience feel that they are looking at him.

Equally fearless is Kristen Underwoood's Eleanor of Aquitaine. Quick witted, and cynical from her recent exile, she is Henry II's peer when it comes to court intrigue and manipulation. Underwood is crisp and on her mark with comedic one-liners that help keep the play grounded in the real world. One moment she is the proverbial dragon lady scheming against Henry's machinations, the next she is bringing the house down with a poignant quip. Underwood thrives on great roles like this, and Eleanor comes to life in her hands.

The three sons, all of whom have been trained to seek the crown, and do so with great ardor, create a series of sideshows around their two parents exploits. Eleanor says about them, "What a greedy little trinity you are."

Richard, played by Eric Knutson, is Eleanor's choice for heir. Henry II wants John, a born whiner, played with whimpering success by Mark Robinson. Torsten Hillhouse is the cold Geoffrey, "the smart one" as John refers to him.

When Henry II finds none of them worthy of the crown, he plans to sire another heir with his mistress Alais, played by Stela Burdt. Doug M .....
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Book Review: Recently released Minnesota books

Sun, Dec 10th, 2000
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Last month I attended the annual convention of the Upper Midwest Bookseller Association in downtown St. Paul, a gathering of authors, publishers and independent booksellers.

I was impressed, as I was last year, by the number of fine books of ..... 
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Rushford Library looking at expansion

Sun, Dec 10th, 2000
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Monday, November 20

To build or to remodel? That is the question a Library Taskforce has been considering for the past couple months in the city of Rushford.

The existing public library in the Tew Building, located near Rushford’s cent ..... 
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Gateway Towns

Sun, Dec 10th, 2000
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Austin


Greetings from Austin, Minnesota! Located on I-90, visitors from the west will come through this major city located on the Cedar River.

Austin is the home of the Fortune 500 company -- Geo. A. Hormel & ..... 
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Northeastern Iowa

Sun, Dec 10th, 2000
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Northeast Iowa shares much of the same topography of Historic Bluff Country. Limestone bluffs, meandering rivers, springs, and rolling hills in the east and softly rolling hills with rich prairie soil in the west. Minnesota and Iowa also share the sa ..... 
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Anytown, MN

Sun, Dec 10th, 2000
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Nestled in a deep valley of the Root River is the unique city of Anytown. This quaint townsite of less than one thousand residents, located in the state hardwood forest reminds one of the many hillside villages in Norway.

Strolling down the ..... 
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Not in my backyard

Sun, Dec 10th, 2000
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Monday, June 26, 2000

In the usually quiet burg of Spring Valley, the hot topic of conversation has switched as of late. While recent flooding has left the community with much to contemplate, another issue is sizzling to the forefront. What’s ..... 
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Wykoff, MN

Sun, Dec 10th, 2000
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When you visit the heart of Bluff Country, take the drive on MN Hwy. 80 and you will find Wykoff, "The Gateway to Forestville."

Our limestone karst region is dotted with "sink holes" which indicate caverns below ground. You can visit one of t ..... 
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Whalan/Highland area

Sun, Dec 10th, 2000
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Whalan, with a population of about 90, is one of the smaller towns on the trail, though one of the most memorable. The town provides excellent access to the [Read the Rest]
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