Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Richard the Third
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of BLKS, Once, Cyrano de Bergerac, Nell Gwynn, and Broadway Center Stage: The Music Man


Cara Ricketts and Matthew Rauch
Photo by Scott Suchman
The Shakespeare Theatre Company's current production of Richard the Third is, above all, grim. Director David Muse is determined to bring out the contemporary resonances in William Shakespeare's chronicle of a sociopathic leader, a man driven by resentment and a need to dominate, vicious to those who challenge him and disloyal to his followers—and it's far too obvious.

To begin with, Debra Booth's scenic design turns the stage of Washington's Sidney Harman Hall into an enormous, empty industrial space with dirty walls and large swinging doors, not to mention a bank of lights (designed by Lap Chi Chu) that belongs in an operating theater—foreshadowing. There's no grandeur in the royal court of Edward IV (David Bishins) and Queen Elizabeth (Robynn Rodriguez), only scattered pieces of furniture. Lindsay Jones has fashioned a sound design of mechanized noise and slashing heavy metal music.

As the malevolent Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Matthew Rauch manipulates the people around him but takes little pleasure in the results. So he frames one of his brothers as a traitor to the other, seduces the widow of a man he killed, and sways the populace to support him; he stays aloof through it all. Rauch does not play Richard with the traditional crooked back, rather depicting his physical disability with a leg brace, a cane, and on occasion a loping walk.

In this production, the aggrieved women in Richard's orbit register more strongly than the central figure. Lizan Mitchell gives a blazing performance as Margaret of Anjou, widow of King Henry VI and mother of his son, both of whom were killed by Richard. Her furious curse is like an incantation. Rodriguez as a queen robbed of her crown and her sons, Sandra Shipley as Richard's tormented mother, and Cara Ricketts as the pitiable Lady Anne begin at cross purposes to Margaret but join with her as the bodies pile up.

Muse has a pessimistic view of how a nation might deal with such an untrustworthy leader. Some of Richard's torturers wear white doctor's coats, eagerly helping the regime, and the people of England are a mob, easily led and ready for violence against whoever is the enemy at any time. They welcome Richard with their walking staffs and their knives and swords, reacting with the emotion Rauch spurns, but later they do the same for the man who kills him and takes power.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Richard the Third
February 5th - March 10th, 2019
By William Shakespeare
House of York:
King Edward IV: David Bishins
Richard, Duke of Gloucester, his brother: Matthew Rauch
George, Duke of Clarence, his brother: Cody Nickell
Duchess of York, their mother: Sandra Shipley
Prince Edward, son of the King: Charlie Niccolini
Young Duke of York, son of the King: Logan Matthew Baker
House of Lancaster:
Margaret of Anjou, widow of King Henry VI: Lizan Mitchell
Lady Anne of Neville, widow of Edward, Prince of Wales: Cara Ricketts
The Woodvilles:
Queen Elizabeth, wife of King Edward IV: Robynn Rodriguez
Earl of Rivers: Todd Scofield
Lord Grey: Jonathan Feuer
Politicians:
Duke of Buckingham: Christopher Michael McFarland
Lord Hastings: Derrick Lee Weeden
Lord Stanley: Michael Rudko
Richard's Men:
Sir William Catesby: John Keabler
James Tyrrel: Cody Nickell
Lord Lovel: Sam Midwood
Sir Richard Ratcliffe: David Bishins
Murderer 1: David Ryan Smith
Murderer 2: Matthew Aldwin McGee
House of Tudor:
Earl of Richmond: Evelyn Spahr
Others:
Brakenbury, lieutenant of the Tower: Ahmad Kamal
Archbishop of Canterbury: Harry A. Winter
Mayor of London: Sofiya Cheyenne
Scrivener: David Ryan Smith
Ensemble: Sheldon Donenberg, Elizabeth Erb, Mihir Kumar, Sam Midwood, Billy Saunders Jr., Stephen G. Shetler, Andrew Thornton
Directed by David Muse
Harman Center for the Arts, Sidney Harman Hall
610 F St. NW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or www.shakespearetheatre.org


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