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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Richard III

Also see Susan's review of Into the Woods

Richard III
Margot Dionne and Pamela Payton-Wright
Richard III has one of the juiciest title roles in all of William Shakespeare's plays. Richard is a man who, while deformed in body traditionally he is depicted with a hunchback, a club foot, and one withered, useless arm has a mind seething with possibilities. As he plots to gain the English throne by inciting those around him to destroy each other, Richard dominates the stage.

In Michael Kahn's current production at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, he and actor Geraint Wyn Davies have taken a different tack. Davies' Richard is cerebral in his machinations: rather than crowing over his successes, he takes a quiet, smug pleasure in them. This is a legitimate interpretation of the role, but the absence of the bravura side of Richard's personality leaves a hollowness at the core of this production.

To be sure, other members of Kahn's enormous cast pick up where Davies leaves off. The most noteworthy are the women who come to know Richard's cruelty: Queen Margaret (Tana Hicken), whose husband and son were killed by Richard, now a furious crone aiming verbal daggers at her perceived and real enemies; the august Duchess of York (Pamela Payton-Wright), mother of Richard and his brothers, who realizes too late what a monster she has borne; passionate Queen Elizabeth (Margot Dionne), wife of Richard's sickly brother, King Edward IV (Floyd King), determined to protect her family no matter what; and Lady Anne (Claire Lautier), widow of Queen Margaret's son, who becomes a pawn in Richard's game for control. In their various ways, these women are eloquent, fiercely self-possessed, and magnificent.

Among the men, Edward Gero stands out as the Duke of Buckingham, a power broker who supports Richard's bid for the crown until Richard doesn't need him anymore. Andrew Long has only a few scenes as the Duke of Clarence, Richard's trusting brother and the first of his victims, but he makes a touching impression. Ian Bedford is chilling in his cameo role as Sir James Tyrrel, a man so amoral he is capable of killing children.

Lee Savage's scenic design portrays the metaphor of "a world out of joint" in visual terms. The rusted metal set, with its towers, clanging doors, and bridge over the stage, is set at an angle to the floor, and the viewer must take a few minutes to look at it without a sense of vertigo. Charlie Morrison's lighting design and Martin Desjardins' music and sound design build the feeling of disorientation. Jennifer Moeller's sumptuous costumes allude to the sense of the characters as predators, animals attacking the weakest among them, with thick fur robes and collars, and a reptilian black leather tunic for Richard.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Richard III January 16th March 18th
By William Shakespeare
House of York:
King Edward IV: Floyd King
George, Duke of Clarence, younger brother to King Edward: Andrew Long
Richard, Duke of Gloucester, younger brother to King Edward: Geraint Wyn Davies
Edward, Prince of Wales, son to King Edward: Matthew Williams
Richard, Duke of York, son to King Edward: Kent Jenkins
Elizabeth, daughter to King Edward: Maria Kelly
Duchess of York, mother to King Edward and his brothers: Pamela Payton-Wright
Young Clarence, son to the Duke of Clarence: Sean McCoy
House of Lancaster:
Queen Margaret, widow to King Henry VI: Tana Hicken
Lady Anne, widow of Edward, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VI: Claire Lautier
The Woodvilles:
Queen Elizabeth, wife to King Edward: Margot Dionne
Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, brother to Queen Elizabeth: Donald Carrier
Lord Grey, son to Queen Elizabeth by her former marriage: Dan Crane
Marquess of Dorset, son to Queen Elizabeth by her former marriage: Matthew Stucky
Politicians:
Hastings, Lord Chamberlain: Raphael Nash Thompson
Duke of Buckingham: Edward Gero
Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby: Ralph Cosham
Bishop of Ely: Bill Hamlin
Lord Mayor of London: Lawrence Redmond
Others:
Jane Shore, mistress to King Edward and Lord Hastings: Melora Kordos
George Stanley, son to Lord Stanley: David Murgittroyd
Sir Robert Brakenbury, Lieutenant of the Tower: James Denvil
A Scrivener: Floyd King
Followers of Richard:
Sir William Catesby: Aubrey Deeker
Sir Richard Ratcliffe: Jeff Allin
Lord Lovell: Carl Palmer
Sir James Tyrrel: Ian Bedford
First Murderer: Carl Palmer
Second Murderer: James Ricks
House of Tudor:
Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond: David Gross
Followers of Richmond:
Sir Walter Herbert: Keith Irby
Sir James Blunt: Lawrence Redmond
Earl of Oxford: James Denvil
Ensemble: Matthew Cardenes, Kenny Cooper, Andy English, David Murgittroyd, Robert Rector, Ben Rosenblatt, Theodore Snead, Nick Vienna
Directed by Michael Kahn
450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


Photo: Carol Rosegg


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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