Thanks to some trimming of both parts of Henry IV, Barbara Gaines’s theatrical marathon–five hours plus, with 40 minutes for dinner–moves at a sprightly pace. And though her take on Shakespeare’s double whammy is by no means revolutionary, she wisely drives home the point that the heart of the story is a turf war between blue-blooded gangsters, focusing on the cowardice and deceptions of both rebels and royals. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the climactic showdown at the end of Part 1, when Prince Hal’s Eastcheap street-fighting ways overwhelm Hotspur, whose sense of honor in battle is misplaced. Greg Vinkler’s Falstaff is inventive, soulful, and multifaceted–light on bombast and heavy on sly showmanship. Jeffrey Carlson’s watchful heir apparent Hal, with his barely concealed vicious streak, and David Lively’s short-fused monarch together illustrate that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Through 6/18: Wed 11 AM, Fri 5:45 PM, Sat 4 PM, Sun 2 PM, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand, 312-595-5600, $95 for both shows (mandatory), $19 for optional boxed meal.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Liz Lauren.