On Thursday, I had the good fortune of seeing Henry IV performed at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Unusually, this performance actually took place before the theater’s inaugural season. Everything about the play was unusual. The stage setup is a concrete square with a large metal cage around it, surrounded by four bleachers. You are locked into this cage at the beginning of the performance, and not permitted to leave until it is over. That’s right: No intermissions. Just 2 hours and 15 minutes of amazing acting. Another twist on the old formula is that the play is set in a women’s prison. I expected it to be the O Brother, Where Art Thou? to Henry IV’s Odyssey, but it turned out that the women’s prison part just meant that it was staged as if it was an art program at a women’s prison. That meant no elaborate props, theatrics, swordplay, or costumes. Everything was casual and modern. The women all wore modern clothing, like hoodies and T-shirts, the swords were replaced with toy guns, the honorable duel between Prince Hal of Wales and “Hotspur” Percy was done as a fistfight (where they were actually across the stage from each other, pantomiming getting hit, dodging, and blocking), and there was quite a bit of absurd comedy thrown in as well. For example, during a serious conversation between Henry IV and his son, the fat comic relief character, Falstaff, bursts into the scene twice with a noisemaker right behind Prince Hal. This prompts Henry IV to yell, “Fuck off, this isn’t your scene!” Falstaff promptly runs away. There were other fourth-wall breaking moments, like when the actress playing one of the wives broke into tears onstage and had to run off. One of the guards (yes, there were prison guards at all four corners of the stage) comes to her aid and “comforts” her, telling her that they would carry on without her. She promptly ended up playing random background characters, and is present during the closing bow, so my fears that she got a distressing phone call backstage were dispelled. All in all, St. Ann’s interpretation of Henry IV is a breathtaking new twist on an old idea.