RICHARD III (The Public) is a misfire.
Posted by: student_rush 01:12 pm EDT 06/30/22

So odd that Robert O'Hara has put absolutely zero personal touch onto this production: anyone expecting any pseudo-deconstruction or reinterpretation (a la his "Long Day's Journey") will be very disappointed, but mostly because the entire evening fails to cohere around any unified mission, aesthetic, tension, or tone. This "Richard" is dressed like a high school production, interpolating a mostly classic approach with modern "sassy" line readings (is there any more obvious trick when afraid to trust the material?) and completely dull dance interludes set to some mash-up of classical lutes and contemporary hip-hop music (not only is it poorly arranged and mixed, but SIX is doing this much more successfully). Boring design, boring fighting, boring staging.

In this production, Richard is not disabled. Sure, he says he is, but O'Hara and Danai Gurira have no interest in portraying or pointing to any deformity. So when everyone continually rails against this "bunchback'd toad" for 3 hours, it means nothing. There is no attempt to help audiences with basic storytelling: I have acted in and directed this play before and I was having a hard time understanding who is related to whom, who is in which position of power at any given time, etc. Colorblind casting only muddles any understanding of families, lineages, etc. American Sign Language is employed sporadically throughout the evening ... the most galling gimmick I've seen in a while, because - and this cannot be overstated enough - the actual production is NOT accessible for deaf audiences. Certain characters are deaf (presumably because the performers are), but this is not used in any theatrical vocabulary: high queens are deaf, low murders are deaf, everyone seems to speak ASL, and yet we also have a translator character ... and there are still moments of untranslated/captioned text that goes signed back and forth for silent minutes. When people refer to "virtue signaling," this is what they mean.

This is not some anti-woke scree, because all these elements can (and have) been utilized together successfully in the past to elevate material and enrich with new meaning. It requires, however, extreme thought and careful consideration to implement as an additional design/direction component - a theatrical alchemy that is totally lacking here. Lots of ideas, zero execution. At the end of the day, everything rests on the intentions of the director; it's never once clear why O'Hara is interested in "Richard III." He has populated this world with people who have drastically different abilities with heightened text (Gurira is good; Ali Stroker is not), while getting in the way of the text at every turn.

See it, don't see it, it'll probably be a Critic's Pick at this rate. And for those who think I'm just a negative person, I linked below recent mixed-to-positive thoughts on MUSIC MAN, MINUTES, AMERICAN BUFFALO, and COMPANY.
Link See, it's not all bad!

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