Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

Richard III
St. Louis Shakespeare
Review by Richard T. Green

Also see Richard's review of Helvetica


Michelle Hand, Tim Callahan, John Foughty,
Jeanitta Perkins, Charlie Barron, and Joseph Cella

Photo by John Lamb
It may be that any collection of human beings must eventually resemble a mafia, where plots are laid and, sooner or later, sin shall pluck on sin. Here, the smoldering actor Charlie Barron, along with a great supporting cast, makes the case powerfully: Mr. Barron being the hobbled villain in a performance that's both winking and frightening.

Of course, the mafia analogy works especially well if the humans in question just happen to have the (formerly) royal name of Plantagenet, and if their story is being told by William Shakespeare, to please the (succeeding) royal house of Windsor, back around 1592. But let's face it, the Plantagenets didn't come off very well in 1966's The Lion In Winter either.

Fair or not, this Richard III is so appealing because its anti-hero is terrifically ingratiating and wicked, by turns. We meet him just as he's about to tap the first domino in a chain that will lead him to the throne. And that immediacy in storytelling is part of the fun, as dialog and action work together in perfect harmony.

For contrast, look at the script for Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and you'll see that the first three acts are all "set-ups," for payoffs that won't come until after the usual intermission. In this play, clearly and intelligently directed by Suki Peters, every calculation leads to an almost instant (but evil) gratification. There is consistent drive, and there are regular payoffs, including a surprisingly effective battle at the end.

A quartet of outstanding actresses each rue the day they met him: Jennifer Theby-Quinn is Lady Anne, every bit as smart as Mr. Barron in fast-moving events but careless in her curses; Michelle Hand is the newly widowed queen, teetering on the edge of power but just as steely as he; Margeau Steinau is his mother, always able to tailor her outrage into something stylish and understated; and Jeanitta Perkins is a bitter, deposed queen whose words bring can down castles.

John Foughty is Buckingham, Richard's number one henchman, but we also get the real tension of his doubts as the body count rises; Joseph Cella is Hastings—here a subversively humorous figure, a harmless apparatchik with a foolhardy trust. And longtime local actor Tim Callahan responds beautifully to director Peters' sense of realism and depth. Brian Rolf is a wonderfully dangerous Catesby, and the naturally intense Chuck Winning puts the edge on every scene he's in, as Brackenbury and the disturbingly ill King Edward IV.

Alex Bollini and Riley James are adorable as the little princes, and Brennan Eller is terrifically effective as the man who does them in; Maxwell Knocke is the woeful Clarence and later a sort of Greek Orthodox-looking mayor of London. And to cap it all off, Erik Kuhn (also the fight choreographer) is the sunny Richmond, the Windsor who puts a stop to this whole Plantagenet nightmare in the end.

Great costumes, very nice set, and it all comes in at two hours and thirty minutes, which seems like a perfect investment of our time. Mr. Barron has also nicely updated the physicality of the character to reflect the recent skeletal evidence unearthed in England, which allows for some very good work when one of the young princes wants a piggyback ride.

Through April 17, 2016, at the Ivory Theatre. For more information visit www.stlshakespeare.org.

Cast
Charlie Barron: Richard, Duke of Gloucester
Michelle Hand: Elizabeth, Queen to Edward IV
Jeanitta Perkins: Margaret of Anjou
Jennifer Theby-Quinn: Anne Neville
Margeau Steinau: Cecily Neville
John Foughty: Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
Maxwell Knocke: George, Duke of Clarence/Mayor of London
Chuck Winning: King Edward IV and Sir Robert Brackenbury
Erik Kuhn: Henry, Earl of Richmond
Alex Bollini: Prince Edward
Riley James: Prince Richard
Erik Woods: Sir Richard Ratcliffe
Brian Rolf: Sir William Catesby
Michael Pierce: Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset
Scott McDonald: Anthony Woodville, Earl of Rivers and Sir James Blunt
Tim Callahan: Lord Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby
Joseph Cella: Lord Hastings and the Duke of Norfolk
Brennan Eller: Sir James Tyrrell, Berkeley
Andre Eslamian: Lord Grey and Sir William Brandon

Artistic Staff
Suki Peters: Director
John Wolbers: Assistant Director and Text Coach
Elizabeth Henning: Stage Manager and Dramaturge
Katie Robinson: Assistant Stage Manager/Board Operator
Abby Lampe: Assistant Stage Manager/Board Operator
Mara Bollini: Backstage Crew
Erik Kuhn: Fight Choreography
Morgan Maul-Smith: Production Manager
Ted Drury: Sound Designer
Kyra Bishop: Set and Properties Designer
Scott McDonald: Lighting Designer
J.C. Krajick: Costume Designer
Erik Kuhn: Master Carpenter
Chuck Winning: Technical Director
Jane Shore: Costume Assistant
Kathy Doerr: Box Office


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