Theatre Mirror Reviews - "King Richard III"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark


"King Richard III"

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Spiro Veloudos

Scenic Design by Brent Wachtler
Lighting Design by Yael Lubetzky
Costume Design Jane Durland Howland
Fight Choreography by Companie Scaramouche
Stage Manager Michele Keith

Richard............................................Phillip Patrone
Clarence.......................................Diego Arciniegas
Buckingham...............................David Michael Fox
Catesby.................................................Bill Mootos
Stanley................................................Job Emerson
Hastings.......................................Clifford M. Allen
Richmond...................................Douglas O. Lyons
King Edward IV/Bishop of Ely.................Bob Jolly
Lady Anne..................................Jennifer Valentine
Queen Elizabeth...............................Sheila Stasack
Queen Margaret...................................Beth Gotha
Duchess of York.............................Sarah DeLima
Edward, Prince of Wales..........................Eoin Gaj
Richard, Duke of York..................Amos Lichtman
Rivers......................................Duncan McCulloch
Lord Richard Grey/Blunt...................Ross Moyer
Norfolk/Brandon/Murderer.................Joe Owens
Young Ellizabeth............................Danielle Perry
Brakenbury......................................Mark Patrick
Jane Shore.....................................Faye DeBonis
Lovell/George Stanley.................Douglas Rainey
Tyrell/Murderer..............................Steve Rotolo
Surrey..................................Steven R. Maynard
Dorsett/ Oxford......................Stephen Radochia
Mayor of London...........................J H Williston
Ratcliffe.................................Geoffrey P. Burns
Messenger.......................Anna Marie Grywalski


Sometimes the materials an artist has to work with make it hard to realize the vision. Director Spiro Veloudos uses actors and three gifted designers to bring his vision of "King Richard III" alive on his Publick Theatre stage, but the fact of the outdoor stage itself dictates what he can do. In order to be heard, without mikes and amplifiers or even an auditorium, the cast must be louder than the people playing "Beauty And The Beast" in The Wang. But Veloudos takes advantage of this by staging much of the play as flat-out full-voice arguments instead of naturalistic exchanges. The result is much more musical than naturalistic. Then, too, weather has ruined rehearsal schedules, so that on press-night the whole had a ragged, unready surface behind which the director's vision of Richard looked as yet unfinished.

Veloudos gave the role of Richard to Phillip Patrone, whose experience in comic roles is used to good advantage. He speaks all his soliloquies directly to the audience, taking them into his confidence and pointing up the obvious difference between what he says in private and the part he plays in public. The opening words about winter being made summer by the new king are a public speech to that very king before the full court, and only as they withdraw does he confide, alone, to the audience his intention to be a villain. Patrone makes Richard a short, haughty trickster reiterating "Watch me! These are pigeons ripe for my plucking!" as he launches into his outrageous lies, drawing watchers into his deadly jokes almost as accomplices.

One aspect of this three hours of bloody rough-and-tumble "peace" is the speed with which one event tumbles after another. Veloudos has scenes crowding in upon one another at a deliberately bewildering pace. The play begins --- and ends --- with battles and heartless butcheries (though the fight choreography by Companie Scaramouche is never crisp or swift enough to look convincing), but as Richard strips off his armor, suddenly there is the court finery of peace. The murder of Clarence in the Tower is intercut with a peace conference, so that Richard rushes in to proclaim Clarence dead only seconds after the deed has been done. Actors and action rush onstage stepping on the heels of previous actions and actors until this deadly turmoil of a kingdom "at peace" is a comprehensible whole only through the eyes of Richard himself, the only man who can see and orchestrate it all.

Richard murders and manipulates men, but it is the women who feel the weight of his villainies, see him as a monster, and cry out against him. Their cursings and railings at Richard become verbal exchanges of quick cut and riposte that rival the duel of Kate and Petruchio in precision and wit. These are broadsword swipes, toe to toe shouting matches as intricately balanced as any Gilbert & Sullivan quartet. And these all winnow down to a three-part harmony of three widowed queens telling over their murdered fathers, husbands, brothers, and children who took hopes and ambitions with them to the grave.

Brent Wachtler has spread across the back of the stage a two-story screen of tattered clouds that Yael Lubetzky's lights can flood with sky blue or blood red to match a mood or wash white again at will. Jana Durland Howland has found costumes for these 27 actors that evoke the richness of the time and, with that screen as background, make props and furniture unnecessary. It's what Shakespeare's people say, after all, that defines what they are.

This summer's discontents have cancelled performances, slashed income, drenched away rehearsal time and benefited bugs much more than actors at this Charles-side playspace, and yet The Publick Theatre has endured, and fashioned a "King Richard III" that looks like a whole new play.

Love,
===Anon.

"Richard III" (till 26 July)
THE PUBLICK THEATRE
Christian A. Herter Park, Soldiers Field Road, BOSTON
1(617)782-5424

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