Rutherford Cravens (L), shown here as Cardinal Woolsey in the Main Street Theater production of Wolf Hall (with Joel Grothe as Thomas Cromwell), won't be in period garb for The Last Wife.
Rutherford Cravens (L), shown here as Cardinal Woolsey in the Main Street Theater production of Wolf Hall (with Joel Grothe as Thomas Cromwell), won't be in period garb for The Last Wife.
Photo by Pin Lim/Forest Photography

The Last Wife Re-Imagines A King and Queen In Modern Times

In The Last Wife, Kate and Henry are a power couple sorting things out. She's a lot younger than him and he's in declining days of power.

“He’s a formerly vital, energetic man at the end of his days hanging on. He’s losing confidence in his powers but determined to stay in charge, to stay on top,” says Rutherford "Ruddy" Cravens who's taken on the Henry role at Main Street Theatre.

If any of this sounds at all familiar, it may be because Canadian playwright Kate Henning has re-imagined tthe history of King Henry VIII and Katherine Parr (and made it a bit funnier) and set it in contemporary times.

Katherine Parr was the only one of King Henry VIII’s six wives to stay with him till the end – his end, since she survived him.

As to whether he really loves his young wife, Cravens says: “I think as far as he is capable he really loves her, but he’s a pretty damaged human being.”

There’s intrigue aplenty as Kate (played by Lisa Villegas) has endangered herself with secret meetings with Thom, Henry’s former brother-in-law. She battles Henry to make sure his daughters are educated and have rights – much as the original Katherine Parr did on behalf of the future Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I.

You may have seen Cravens recently playing a racist in Jordan Peele’s horror/psychological thriller movie Get Out, which has gone on to much acclaim. Cravens called the experience great fun. "Jordan Peele is a great guy and I am really happy for him that he’s had this success. It’s much deserved and it’s a really good movie. He’s been able to take the genre and turn it into something much more profound.

"It was fun being in Mobile a week and a half. They imported me to Mobile, Alabama to play a racist which is sort of like importing seafood to Hawaii but there you have it."

As for The Last Wife, Cravens calls it "a lovely, funny, very humane play. People should just go to the theater and see it."

Asked if he felt at all intimidated playing a famous historical figure, Cravens says no, in large part because Henning brought the story into modern times.

"If he were standing in that world-straddling stance with his hands on his hips and all the ermine and gold, you’d have a preconception to live up to. But I think she has done me a favor by bringing it into a more contemporary world. I think of it as inspired by but not an historical picture. I don’t think she is bound by the actual historical characters. I think she has re-imagined them."

Performances are scheduled for July 15 through August 13 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays at 2540 Times in Rice Village. For information call 713-524-6706 or visit mainstreettheater.com. $36-$42.

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