The Last Lion and the Eagle

By Philip Pearce

WINSTON CHURCHILL is the latest subject in Howard Burnham’s exciting series of on-line Zoom biographies under the auspices of Monterey County Theatre Alliance.

It’s no surprise that his portrait of the great man in The Last Lion and the Eagle is compelling and the slide show vivid in its panorama of the key personalities, places and events in the life of one of the most famous non-Americans in recent American history.

With its strong emphasis on Churchill’s American mother and American wife, plus his close links with figures like the Roosevelts, Harry Hopkins and ambassadors Kennedy and Wynant, it was a popular choice. Several members of the audience voted for it enthusiastically in an informal interactive chat with Howard after his performance as Edward Lear in His Shoes Were Far Too Tight. I guess I need to check in as a member of the loyal opposition when I say I liked Last Lion and Eagle but I liked Shoes and In a Dream Within a Dream better.

Why? I think because I had less advance knowledge of either Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear than I did of Winston Churchill. The two humorists were names on the covers of books I knew well but whose authors’ lives were full of quirky nooks and crannies I had never poked into. The two plays probed and explored previously undiscovered territory and I like it when theater does that. Lion and Eagle offers an affectionate tribute to a world-famous man, not so much to assess as to extol him. That’s fine. It’s what Shakespeare does for Henry V. But having lived through a lot of the 20th century and read a fair bit of its history, I found myself last Saturday taking a pleasantly nostalgic but over-familiar stroll along a well-traveled stretch of American history.