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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Richard III
Folger Theatre

Also see Susan's reviews of Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song and Violet


Drew Cortese
Washington's Folger Theatre and director Robert Richmond have brought a new, unexpected perspective to their production of William Shakespeare's Richard III. This is meant quite literally: the company has removed the traditional seating and placed temporary seats around a forbidding central platform suggesting the interior of a mausoleum. It isn't just theater in the round, it's theater of claustrophobia.

Richmond has staged a muscular production of Shakespeare's play, anchored by Drew Cortese as a very physical Richard. Unlike traditional portrayals of the character as hunchbacked and with a weak arm, Cortese lunges when he walks but otherwise is as adept with weapons as he is with words. (He also knows his way around a rabble-rousing speech or an appropriate photo op, appearing piously with two friars as he coyly refuses the crown.)

Tony Cisek's scenic design—a dark glass platform with numerous trapdoors—and Jim Hunter's tightly focused lighting design place the action in the sepulcher where Richard traps his victims and disposes of their bodies. While the many murders are bloodless, they are no less chilling for that; indeed, the scene with the young princes in the tower (Holden Brettell and Remy Brettell) begins charmingly before the horror sets in.

Sixteen skilled actors play all the roles, many of them doubling and tripling. Naomi Jacobson gives another vibrant performance as the furious Queen Margaret, who lost both her husband and her son to Richard, and Nanna Ingvarsson conveys a sort of regal resignation as Richard's mother. Howard W. Overshown is majestic as Richard's ally Buckingham, while Michael Sharon impresses as both the doomed Duke of Clarence and Richard's feral henchman Catesby.

More puzzling is Julia Motyka as Queen Elizabeth, wife of Richard's sickly brother King Edward (Paul Morella) and mother to the young princes. She's appropriately proud and diffident, but Mariah Hale has dressed her in a blood-red gown with a black leather corset and black feather trim. It's the only jolt of color in a largely black and gray palette, but the reason for it is never made clear in her performance.

Folger Theatre
Richard III
January 28th - March 9th
By William Shakespeare
Princess Elizabeth: Jenna Berk
Edward, Prince of Wales: Holden Brettell
Richard, Duke of York: Remy Brettell
King Richard III: Drew Cortese
Ratcliffe/Friar: Andrew Criss
Lovell/Archbishop of Ely/Friar: Daniel Flint
Hastings/Tyrell: Sean Fri
Rivers/Richmond: Michael Gabriel Goodfriend
Duchess of York: Nanna Ingvarsson
Queen Margaret: Naomi Jacobson
Lady Anne: Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan
Edward/Mayor/Norfolk: Paul Morella
Queen Elizabeth: Julia Motyka
Buckingham: Howard W. Overshown
Clarence/Catesby: Michael Sharon
Stanley: Richard Sheridan Willis
Directed by Robert Richmond
Folger Shakespeare Library
201 E. Capitol St., S.E.
Washington , DC 20003
Ticket Information: 202-544-7077 or www.folger.edu/theatre


Photo: Jeff Malet


-- Susan Berlin


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



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