That warning looms in the shadows of “A Man For All Seasons,” a surprisingly timely play running now through March 8 in the Leishman Performance Hall at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre. Beneath the old-fashioned language and period clothing is a dangerous dance between truth and practicality, where a man’s genuinely held beliefs offer him as much protection as a flower before a steamroller.
The play follows a particularly troubling period in the life of Sir Thomas More, who served as Lord Chancellor of England under King Henry the Eighth. A close look at the program offers an inadvertent plot spoiler for those who don’t know their history, but those who do already know the end of the story in all of its violent, tragic detail.
That knowledge casts a pall over everything that happens onstage, providing a chill to even the simplest conversations. This is particularly true any time Oliver Cromwell opens his mouth. Played by Jeff Davis with an almost jovial politeness that carries a knife edge just beneath the surface, the character merely needs to smile to make it clear terrible things are going to happen.
On the other side of the coin, John Adams plays More with a quiet dignity that only adds weight to the tragedy unfolding in front of him. Todd Wente is invaluable as the multi-part character The Common Man, adding a vitally necessary touch of lightness to the proceedings.
The focal point of the set is a projection screen, which was a fantastic idea hampered by lighting that often faded out the image. Other touches, such as a church window made entirely of light, lingered longer in the memory.