There is good reason why Shakespeare’s Richard III (his most often performed play during his lifetime) is still immensely popular over 400 years later. It is a masterpiece. The play has it all; villains, heroes, greed, intrigue, murder, mayhem, battle, comedy, royalty, infanticide, history and blood…lots of blood. It is not a work that one tackles lightly. From the first line, “Now is the summer of our discontent” the play grabs you and does not let go.
It takes a company of extraordinary skill and precision to pull off a great performance. Great Lakes Theater is that company. Although I am a neophyte when it comes to the Bard, I do know great theater when I see it and Great Lakes Theater has put together an astounding production. Dressing the set and actors in modern scenes and clothing it helps get one past the language barrier that is “Middle English”. You end up truly understand what Richard III is all about.
Let us begin with the complex stage set. Matching the contemporary costuming of the production the set is this awesome two story glass and steel modern castle with spiral staircase, sliding door, hidden entrances and exits and an upper battlement that spans the entire stage. Downstage (nearest to the audience) is a set of double trap doors that serves as everything from an entrance to the moat to dispose of a body, to cells in the Tower of London to Richard III’s grave. When these large grated doors are opened they hit the stage with a resounding crash. The entire set is an engineering marvel designed by Linda Buchanan.
The costuming is totally modern and stylish and well appointed. It is clothing befitting people of royalty. Even the camo outfits of the two “armies” in the final battle scenes match. The props are first rate from Richard’s throne, to the coffin of his murder victims, chairs, tables, hospital bed…even the automatic weapons carried by the soldiers. This is the mark of a company that is willing to go the extra mile for authenticity.
As for the actors, they are in the top of their form. In the entire play there was not one flubbed line…not even a hint. Dialog was delivered forcefully and with total confidence. Lynn Robert Berg as Richard is acting at its best. He spends the entire play with his left arm and hand gnarled and twisted at his side while dragging his right leg and foot in order to portray the scoliosis stricken king. His role is a man who you feel pity for, enjoy his dark humor and generally like until he goes on his murderous rampage in order to capture the throne of England. Mr. Berg plays it with remarkable skill.
Of equal note was the performance of Lenne Snively as the Duchess of York (mother of King Edward) who delivered one of the most stirring of soliloquies that earned an extended applause from the audience. David Anthony Smith plays the smarmy Duke of Buckingham whose support of Richard is cut off as the walls begin to close on him. He is captured during a battle against Richard’s forces and sent to the Tower for execution. David McCann plays Lord Stanley who must feign support of Richard or witness the execution of his only son. He is a man caught in the middle whose loyalty lies with Henry, Earl of Richmond (stepson of Lord Stanley and later King Henry VII after his defeat of Richard III).
Lastly, the battle scene at the end of the play is a remarkable piece of technology, acting and special effects that combine to put you right in the middle of the conflict. Bombs explode, gunfire is rampant and smoke swirls as Richard fights to the death in order to keep his ill-gotten crown. You will find yourself ducking for cover as the battle rages.
Richard III is a play about the lust for absolute power. Richard is a man whose spine is as twisted as his mind. He is plagued by birth defects and lives a life of rejection. When he comes of age he gathers a group of like minded criminals and together they kill their way to power only to turn on each other once that goal is obtained.
Shooting From The Lip, My Last Words: Richard III by Great Lakes Theater is must see Shakespeare that will impress everyone with its sharp execution. Newcomers and long standing fans of the Bard will agree that this is truly an exceptional performance that should be shared by all.
Darren Matthias*, King Henry IV, Sir Richard Ratcliffe; Lenne Snively*, Duchess of York; Jodi Dominick*, Edward, Prince of Wales; Lucy Anders, Richard, Duke of York; Clare Howes Eisentrout* Elizabeth of York, Sara M. Bruner*, Queen Elizabeth; M.A. Taylor*, Lord Rivers, Anthony Woodville; Chris Cowan, Lord Grey; Zach Adkins, Marquess of Dorset; J. Todd Adams*, George, Duke of Clarence; Lynn Robert Berg*, Richard, Duke of Gloucester; Laurie Birmingham*, Queen Margaret; Laura Welsh Berg*, Lady Anne; Tom Ford* Lord Hastings; David McCann*, Lord Stanley; Eric Damon Smith*, The Bishop of Ely; Mark G. Hawbecker*, Lord Mayor of London, Duke of Norfolk; Sir Robert Brakenbury; Alex Syiek*, Henry, Earl of Richmond; David Anthony Smith*, Duke of Buckingham; J. Todd Adams*, Sir William Catesby; Chris Richards* Murderer; Eric Damon Smith*, Murderer; Chris Richards* Sir James Blunt.
*Members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Linda Buchanan, Scenic Designer; Sara M. Bruner*, Fight Captain; Martha Hally, Costume Designer; Michael Chybowski, Lighting Designer; Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen, Sound Designers; Keb Merckx, Fight Choreographer; Cynthia Stillings, Assistant Lighting Designer and Tim Kinzel*, Stage Manager.
*Members of Actors’ Equity Association, The Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Tickets are available by calling (216) 241-6000, by ordering online at: http://www.greatlakestheater.org or by visiting the PlayhouseSquare Ticket Office. Groups of ten or more receive discounts of up to 40% by calling (216) 241-5490 x302.
Great Lakes Theater (the first resident company of PlayhouseSquare) has brought the pleasure, power and relevance of classic theater to the widest possible audience since 1962. GLT programming positively impacts 100,000 adults and students annually.
Great Lakes Theater’s award-winning home at the Hanna Theatre features a visionary “Great Room” inspired design that integrates the artist and audience experience into a single unified environment. Hanna patrons select from a variety of seating opportunities including traditional theater seats, club chairs, lounge/bar seats, banquette couches and private box seating. Arranged in an intimate 550-seat thrust configuration where the audience surrounds the stage, no seat is further than 12 rows from the performance.