note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Monica Raymond
1) The audacious rightness of Marya Lowry as Buckingham. With the worn glamor of her face, the alto throatiness of her voice, Lowry served masterfully as both a foil to Richard and the closest he comes to a kindred spirit. She had the tough allure of the professional woman who's made her way in a man's world and seen it all. But in the end her rugged sanity of her connivance was no match for Richard's slippery psychopathology. Which brings me to--
2) John Kuntz's Richard, as some critics noted, lacked what would seem to the dominant note in the part, a chronic ironic lipsmacking relish in his own villainy. I started getting nervous when what seemed to me to be the necessary sarcasm was missing from the opening speech. But I needn't have worried. Kuntz's Richard was all boyish smoothness, He seemed almost too small for his own wickedness, and when he got mad, he shrieked, like a plastic toy cracking . As Kuntz played him, Richard's overwhelming quality is his inability to sustain real contact. This was clearest at the moment when he was confronted by his mother (Bobbie Steinbach) offering a litany of his wrongs. She's sober, oracular, using all her energies to reach him; he seems to brush her off, impatient, like someone stopped for speeding when they're dying to get to the next place. This Richard has no lust to speak of, and the sexual advances he makes to virtually all the women onstage are clearly a creepy marking of territory that one sometimes encounters in real life, but rarely on the stage. And that brings me to:
3) How much fun it was to simply watch this company's actors play with each other at close range. Though we theater lovers make much of the difference between live theater and movies or TV, I rarely sense the breathing liveness of the actors in the way I did here. Partly it was the small scale of the space-- with the actors a times insinuating themselves along the aisles of the church as if performing some perverse religious pageant. Partly the understatement of costumes and concept allowed the actors to shine through. Partly it's the hugely talent, energy and confidence of this cast, with nary a weak link. But whatever caused it, this show had the raw delight of "let's put on a show," of kids in the park or the hayloft, posing with swords, dueling, strutting, and declaiming.