Review: ‘Richard III’ at Marin Shakespeare (**1/2)

by Charles Kruger
Rating: **1/2
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

Aidan O'Reilly as Richard III at Marin Shakespeare Company. Photo Credit: Marin Shakespeare Comopany. Photo Credit: Lori A. Cheung.
Aidan O’Reilly as Richard III at Marin Shakespeare Company. Photo Credit: Marin Shakespeare Comopany. Photo Credit: Lori A. Cheung.
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

What matters most with Shakespeare is the language, right? In the current production of “Richard III” at Marin Shakespeare Company, the language is handled very well, indeed. Spoken with clear diction, and easy-to-understand meaning, the care with which director Robert Currier has spent over the language is evident from beginining to end.

Aiden O’Reilly plays Richard as a born actor, bursting into tactical tears when necessary, coaxing, seducing, frightening as needed. He pursues his goals with an infectious zest, and his brutal honesty and sheer joy in his own villainy have a strange appeal, as Shakespeare certainly intended. A highlight of the entire production is the famous scene between Richard and Anne (an effective Livia Demarchi), in which he successfully seduces her as she stands lamenting over her husband’s coffin — a man whom Richard murdered.

Also worth noting is Phoebe Moyer’s wonderful performance as Margaret, the former Queen of England, who warns the court of Richard’s perfidy and curses him in one of Shakespeare’s most justly famous monologues. It is traditional to treat this role as a vocal and emotional showcase for an experienced actress, and Moyer goes to town with it. Nick Sholley, as Richard’s brother Clarence, is equally impressive and eloquent. This is Shakespeare as we like it.

The strength of this production is in the spoken language, and the first half — heavy on speeches — is the better half. Later, after the intermission, when battle scenes and other action become more important, the production wavers. Perhaps because of a limited budget, the costumes look haphazard and, on occasion, a bit silly. Some of the staging seems to misfire, as when two members of the court appear to be sniffing cocaine and engaging in boisterous sign language reminescent of drug culture dating back to the 1980s. It is not contemporary at all, and the effect is odd and out of place. Likewise, Richard’s use of modern gym equipment is interesting, but little is done to develop this image. The more-or-less contemporary references in the staging seem to be after thoughts, rather than a coherent conceptual approach to the play.

Patrick Ewart and Carl Robinett, the very young actors who play Prince Edward and the Duke of York, are delightful, and marvelously well spoken.

Overall, fans of Richard III can well enjoy the positive aspects of this enthusiastic production, and overlook its flaws.

“Richard III” plays through September 27, 2015 at the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre at Dominican University in San Rafael. For further information click here.

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“Richard III” by William Shakespeare, produced by Marin Shakespeare Company. Director: Robert Currier. Costumes: Abra Berman. Fight Director: Richard Pallaziol. Lighting: Ellen Brooks. Set: Jackson Currier. 

Cast:

Kind Edward IV: Michael Schaeffer. Queen Elizabeth: Elena Wright. George, Duke of Clarence: Nick Sholley. Richard, Duke of Glocester: Aidan O’Reilly. Margaret, formerly Queen of England: Phoebe Moyer. Anne, Widow of Prince Edward: Livia Demarchi. Buckingham: Michael Ray Wisely. Rivers: Davie Schiller: Grey/Richmond: Jackson Currier. Hastings: Steven Price. Catesby: Davern Wright. Ratcliffe: Xander Ritchey. First Murderer: Timothy Huls. Second Murderer: Mike Abts. Tyrell, another murderer: Michael Schaeffer. Brackenbury: Chris Hammond. Lord Mayor of London: Steven Price. Citizen of London: Mike Abts. Citizen of London: Timothy Huls. Archbishop of York: Nick Sholley. Bishop of Ely: Chris Hammond. Stanley: David Schiller. Oxford: Steve Price. Blunt: Timothy Huls. Herbert: Mike Abts. Duke of York: Patrick Ewart. Prince Edward: Carl Robinett. Prince Elizabeth: Deborah Lagin. Ensemble: Mike Abts, Jackson Currier, Carolyn Doyle, Isabelle Grimm, Timothy Huls, Michael Schaeffer, David Schiller, Rafael Sebastian, Nick Sholley, Wendy Wyatt-Mair.

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