Reviewed by Sarah Lockwood
Henley Street Theatre and Richmond Shakespeare’s production of Richard III could not be timelier. With the recent discovery of his body, we know more than ever about the hunchback evil king. Plus, as a House of Cards fan, it is especially fascinating to watch as Richard, the treacherous villain that inspired Frank Underwood’s character, claws his way to the top.
Lovely performances of Elizabethan “Rose Red” and “Scarborough Fair” set the tone as the play begins. We meet Richard, played by convincing New Yorker Andrew Platner, who is unsatisfied with his role in post-war England. Motivated by this and his bitterness about his deformity (which we now know was scoliosis – thank you modern archeology), Richard manipulates and murders his way to the throne,
Platner’s Richard is terrifyingly excellent. With a believable pirate-like limp and shortness of breath, Platner somehow makes a hobble strong and menacing. If he catches your eye – which he will, because you’ll be mesmerized – you’ll likely fear for your head, momentarily forgetting that you’re an audience member in the outdoor theatre of the idyllic Agecroft Hall. It’s hard not to be captivated by this villain, who builds a rapport with the audience through witty asides much like when Kevin Spacey breaks the fourth wall in House of Cards.
Director James Bond, who has directed more than 200 productions including more than half of Shakespeare’s cannon, brought together a talented company. Seventeen actors played many more roles, performing amazingly quick transformations, thanks to the perfect costume design of Emily Price and assistant Anna Bialkowski. Through a quick tempo and creative use of the stage, the play’s two hours and forty minutes didn’t feel long. (Though I’d recommend a healthy application of bug spray pre-show.)
Standout performances include seventh graders Zach Edicol and Kerrick Sullivan for their roles as princes, pages, and even Princess Elizabeth. It’s a delight, and quite impressive, to witness such young talents recite stanza after stanza of Shakespearian lines with gusto.
Other notable performances include Alexander Sapp as the sly, dramatic Buckingham, Douglas Jones with a convincing sickly king and Daniel Braunstein’s hesitant murder.
Don’t miss your last chance of the season to see Shakespeare under the trees of Agecroft hall. This classic is vibrant and enthralling under the direction of the prestigious Bond.
As the play culminates in an awesome battle, staged by Fight Director Kevin Inouye, there’s no better ending for us Richmonders than to rejoice in the victory of Lord Richmond.
Richard III runs through August 3, 2014 at Agecroft Hall | Thursday through Sunday evenings at 8:00 p.m. Presented by Henley Street Theatre and Richmond Shakespeare. To purchase tickets, visit Shakespeare Festival.