Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Richard III
Marin Shakespeare Company

Also see Eddie's review of Loveland: Good Grief, Richard's reviews of Mud Blue Sky, Eurydice and The Country House

Aidan O'Reilly and Elena Wright
I always look forward to a production of Shakespeare's tragedy Richard III. A superb up-to-date, fast-paced production of this classic directed by Robert Currier is on hand at Marin Shakespeare Company. Richard III was written by the Bard in 1592 and depicts the Machiavellian rise to power in the short reign of Richard III of England. Over the years I have seen many great actors portray the hunchback evil king, including Lawrence Olivier, Ian McKellen, Anthony Sher, Alec Guinness and, yes, Al Pacino. This is truly my most favorite Shakespeare play.

When Aidan O'Reilly enters the stage as Richard III and says those famous lines, "Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York," I knew I was going to see a damn fine Richard. He limps badly on stage with a cocky attitude, looking like a very grotesque character. He looks like the pitiful runt of the Yorkist litter. O'Reilly makes the audience listen to Richard's reasoning of being this not good-looking guy, who is rudely stooped, and who needs power to feel accomplished or adequate. He reeks of evil.

Sympathy for Richard is short-lived, as O'Reilly relates to the audience by speaking of his conquests like it is all fun. He never makes the character an over the top villain. He woos Lady Anne (Livia Demarchi), whose husband he recently killed, kissing her and then meticulously wiping his mouth as soon as she leaves; he plots the death of Clarence (Nick Sholley), and has his aids Catesby (Davern Wright) and Ratcliffe (Xander Richey) shove him into a vat of mead (occurs off stage). He plots to send the two young sons of King Edward IV to the tower and then later has them killed by Tyrell (Michael Schaeffer), and marries Lady Anne and then has her killed. He is one of a hell of a bastard.

The cast is outstanding. Aidan O'Reilly is well matched by Michael Ray Wisely as his nonviolent best cheerleader Buckingham. Phoebe Moyer as Margaret, formerly Queen of England, gives a fabulous performance in the first act as she slinks high above the set on a pathway leading to the stage. She shoulders the mantle of grief and anger well, her voice reaching vivid sharpness when she delivers the curse that predicts Richard's murders and his eventual failure. Michael Schaeffer is fantastic, with his beautiful true Shakespearean voice, as King Edward IV and later as Tyrell in the second act. Elena Wright gives a charismatic performance as his wife Elizabeth the Queen. She gives a brava performance in the confrontations with Richard when he demands that Elizabeth's young daughter become available for him to marry. Livia Demarchi gives a vivid performance as Lady Anne, and Nick Sholley rocks as George, Duke of Clarence. Jackson Currier makes an excellent Richmond at the end of the play. David Schiller, Steven Price, Timothy Huls, Mike Abts, Davern Wright, Xander Ritchey, and Chris Hammond round out this large cast. They all give uniquely fetching performances. Special mention must be given to the young boys who are banned to the tower. Patrick Ewart as the Duke of York and Carl Robinett as Prince Edward give sumptuous performances, especially 11-year-old Patrick Ewart, giving a pitch perfect rendering of the Bard's words. He is a miniature Shakespearean actor.

Robert Currier's direction is rapid paced with all scenes moving smoothly on the large outside stage. He has inserted little ideas in this modern day performance. For instance, a young girl is taking digital photos of the group at the beginning of the play, three persons are sniffing coke on stage, and the Richmond troops all wear desert outfits, while Richard's troops are wearing somewhat rock type outfits, all thanks to costume designer Abra Berman.

Richard III runs through September 27, 2015, at the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University of California, San Rafael. For tickets and other information, visit www.marinshakespeare.org.

Photo: Lori A. Cheung

Be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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