Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Shakespeare's Villains: A Masterclass In Evil
Steven Berkoff is a bundle of energy. Roaming about the stage, he lectures, mimes and acts out scenes. In effect, he seduces the audience into a world of treachery. In Shakespeare's Villains: A Masterclass In Evil, now featured at The Studio Theatre, Berkoff explores some of Shakespeare's greatest scoundrels.
As the title suggests, this piece is indeed a masterclass. As the author and sole performer of the piece, Berkoff delves into the psyches of these wicked characters. However, he doesn't stop at Shakespeare. He touches on everything from Iago to Al Pacino. Even theater critics aren't safe, which he proved when he compared a particular critic from the London Daily Telegraph to Richard III.
Berkoff has great stage presence and is a splendid actor. Also, he has a wonderful sense of humor that is displayed throughout the piece. As a writer, he is quite successful. The work he has created is accessible to both the uninitiated and veterans of the bard's plays.
The villains are just one focus of Shakespeare's Villains: A Masterclass In Evil. The piece pays specific attention to the occupation of acting. Berkoff explains his need to make a role his own and his frequent efforts to fight off the "ghosts" of acting greats, such as Lawrence Olivier. He also explores the issue of political correctness and the limits it puts on an actor.
However, the piece always comes back to those deliciously immoral villains. With much enthusiasm, Berkoff explains the differences in each one and he does so brilliantly. Then, in an instant, he transforms into the characters. Whether it is Shylock or that infamous couple from "the Scottish play," Berkoff's interpretations are filled with an intensity that is, at times, quite breathtaking. However, he always manages to bring some humor to each role.
Shakespeare's Villains: A Masterclass In Evil is a not only a wonderful character study, but also a fascinating history lesson. Ultimately, it is a thoroughly enjoyable theatrical event. Shakespeare's Villains: A Masterclass In Evil is a limited run that will be playing at The Studio Theatre through February 2nd.
The Studio Theatre
Photo courtesy of The Studio Theatre