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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Richard III at Intiman Theatre

Richard III
Stephen Pelinski and
Kristin Flanders

The acting's the thing, not necessarily the play in Bartlett Sher's accomplished production of Shakespeare's Richard III at Intiman Theatre. Much like Sher's terrifically well cast and performed direction of the current Tony award winning Broadway revival of Awake and Sing, the power of the large ensemble cast kept me riveted in my seat, even when the play itself showed the ravages of time.

Richard is one of the bloodiest tales this side of Sweeney Todd, but with so many characters (and certain textual editing choices) those who attend this tale with less familiarity of the original text (such as myself) may be a bit confused, as the hunchbacked royal hacks and schemes his way to his brief reign as the King of Olde England. After a quarter hour or so, I just opted to enjoy the clarity and naturalness with which the cast delivered their dialogue, their passion and energy, and the way a variety of acting styles cohabit the stage without collision under Sher's actor friendly guidance.

Stephen Pelinski's Richard III is a slinky, smarmy schemer, yet the actor makes him a rather human monster, which makes him all the more repellent. He also shakes off the clichés associated with the "Now is the winter of our discontent" speech and manages not to elicit unintended chuckles when uttering the famed "My kingdom for a horse" line. Michael Winters, true Seattle theatre royalty himself, inhabits the role of the Duke of Buckingham, who takes subtle delight in his role as Richard's chief conspirator, before the worm turns and he joins the vast body count. Other male performances of note are given by Hans Altwies, heroic as Richard's ultimate vanquisher the Earl of Richmond, Timothy McCuen Piggee's carefully crafted Lord Hastings, and Allen Gilmore's strong turn as the Duke of Clarence.

The women's roles include notable work by Kristin Flanders as a passionate and ultimately pitiful Queen Elizabeth, Suzanne Bouchard's mesmerizingly mad and omnipresent Queen Margaret, Megan Cole's old school star-quality as Richard's disgusted Mum, the Duchess of York, and newcomer Lenne Klingaman's sympathetic Lady Anne.

Sher's staging is fluid and near cinematic, ably abetted by the full throttle fight staging by J. Steven White. The action plays out majestically on a scaffolding-dominated setting by Christopher Akerlind, who also did the incredibly effective lighting design. Elizabeth Hope Clancy's costume designs are very well appointed, and a big shout out is due the extraordinary talented drummers, Michael J. McQuilken and Limo Muraki, who create the pulsating heart of the production.

While it may be said that Bartlett Sher's Cymbeline a few seasons back remains his most memorable Shakespeare staging in these parts, this Richard III is still a must see for fans of Sher and Shakespeare alike.

Richard III runs through July 15 at Intiman Theatre, 201 Mercer Street in Seattle Center. For more information go on-line at www.Intiman.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion



- David-Edward Hughes



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