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Richard III

a Tragedy
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 3566

SHOWING : October 15, 2009 - November 22, 2009



The deceptive and sadistic Richard, Duke of Gloucester stops at nothing to become King. With intelligence, political brilliance, and dazzling use of language, he keeps his subjects and rivals under his thumb…. you might even start to feel a little pressure yourself. Don’t miss this engaging continuation of Shakespeare’s history plays.

Lord Hastings / Earl of Surrey Tony Brown
Elizabeth, Queen to King Edward IV Heidi Cline
Margaret, Widow of King Henry VI Laura Cole
Richard, Duke of York (shared) Patrick Dyer
George, Duke of Clarence / Duke of Norfo Nicholas Faircloth
Richmond / Brakenbury / others Matt Felten
Ensemble Jaclyn Hoffman
Ensemble Jaclyn Hofmann
Duke of Buckingham Andrew Houchins
Ensemble Adam Kelley
Earl Rivers / Earl of Oxford Daniel Kerr
Duchess of York, Mother to King Edward I Josie B. Lawson
Lord Lovel / Sir Walter Herbert Brian Mayberry
Richard, Duke of York (shared) Jacob McKee
Sir Richard Ratcliff / Murderer Mike Niedzwiecki
King Edward IV/ Mayor of London / Tyrrel Matt Nitchie
Sir William Catesby / Dead King Henry VI Daniel Parvis
Richard, Duke of Gloucester (afterwards Drew Reeves
Edward, Prince of Wales / Dorset David Sterritt
Lady Anne Amee Vyas
Lord Grey / Sir James Blount Clarke Weigle
Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby Troy Willis
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


A Real Proper Gander
by Dedalus
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Here is how I opened my 2007 comments on a different production of “Richard III,” which remain unsurprisingly relevant for this latest mounting:

Was Richard, Duke of Gloucester evil or good? The historical controversy is almost settled (not quite) in favor of the latter – increasingly more evidence is being discovered that the crimes attributed to Richard were really those of his successor, Henry VII, and our view of Richard is really the product of the Tudor propaganda machine.

Did Shakespeare know all this? That’s not especially relevant. He was a product of the Tudor Age, a loyal subject of Henry VII’s granddaughter, and probably had little interest in correcting history, if, in fact, he knew the “real story.”

Does this make Shakespeare’s “Richard III” a bad play? Not by a long shot. Richard is still one of the grandest villains ever created for the stage, and his story provides a giddy experience even for the modern viewer skeptical of its historical provenance.

The War of the Roses is over, the York faction is in power, and the King’s little brother Richard has too much time on his hands. He plots and schemes and kills his way to the throne, never letting us forget how much fun he’s having. He gets his comeuppance, and England is now ready for the glorious Tudor Dynasty to guide it into the sixteenth century and beyond!

So, let’s now take a closer look (a “proper gander,” if you’ll forgive the pun) at the Shakespeare Tavern’s just closed 2009 production. Clocking in at almost four hours (which includes two intermissions and the usual “hold for latecomers and give a curtain speech” delay at the top), it is still a compellingly watchable spectacle, an incident-filled romp through British History, and a perfect capstone to last year’s “Henry VI” marathon. Most of the actors continue in the roles they played last year, which greatly helps follow the intricacies of the ever-shifting factions and plot.

Centering it all is a marvelous performance by Drew Reeves, who has an embarrassingly good time plotting and killing and inviting us to share in his nasty ambitions and plans. I suspect, as in other productions, that Richard’s real pleasure is in the blood-soaked path to the crown more so than the crown itself. Once he is king, it’s almost as if he has to strain to find excuses to “stay evil.” And, the Tudor propaganda flourishes at the end, with Henry VII painted as the “savior of the realm” are actually quite enjoyable, especially with their echoes in 21st-Century politics and ideological news sources.

That’s not to say the production couldn’t use a little tightening. The ghost sequence before the battle of Bosworth can be repetitive, and, here, it was staged with too little eerie creepiness. There’s perhaps one too many scenes of the women gathering for a gnash-the-teeth-and-wail sobfest. And some of the minor characters fade too much into the background to make their fates have any interest (particularly the relatives of the Queen).

Still, there is so much that worked in this production, these lapses can be considered minor. I especially enjoyed the rouse-the-audience moment that had us cheering on Richard to accept the crown. As expected, the final Bosworth battle was filled with energy and bloodlust and nicely-executed battle choreography. Outstanding supporting work by Andrew Houchins (as Buckingham), Matt Nitchie (as King Edward), Josie Burgin Lawson (as the Duchess of York), and J. Tony Brown (as Hastings) propel us from scene to scene. And special kudos need to go to Laura Cole, who reprised her Queen Margaret in a scenery-chewing scene of anger and vengeance and emotional impotence that was an absolute joy to watch.

As before, the costuming made the warring parties at the end absolutely clear, and the other technical aspects were competently executed.

To close on more historical digressions, it’s just far too much fun to speculate on the Tudor revision of history. Culprit-in-Chief may, in fact, be Sir Thomas More, Henry VIII’s much-lauded chancellor, who produced a biography of Richard that sets out all the accusations and foul deeds portrayed in this play. His work was used as the primary source for several writers whose works were Shakespeare’s sources. Here is where most of the historical debate about Richard begins. Some say that More’s chronicle is based more on gossip he heard while growing up in a household that vehemently opposed Richard. Others say that the events he writes about are confirmed by other sources (all of which are Tudor sources, by the way). Even some apologists claim to have “little doubt” that Richard had his nephews killed; but others claim he had no reason to, since he was already King with the nephews legally disinherited, while Henry had every reason to, since their claim to the throne was more valid than his.

Adding to the confusion is the bones that were found in centuries-later excavations of the Tower of London. Though many claim they are those of the murdered Princes, if they are, it would confirm Henry’s guilt rather than Richard’s, since they are the bones of males older than the Princes at the time of Richard’s death.

All of this is fun speculation, (and for a non-skeptical pro-Richard view, check out Josephine Tey’s 1951 novel “The Daughter of Time,” one of my all-time favorites), but, in the final analysis, not very relevant to a discussion of the “Richard III” as a piece of theatre.

The Shakespeare Tavern did the right things right, and had a production that was thrilling and entertaining, “tying up all the loose ends” of the eight-play history cycle that showed the events leading up to the marvelous Tudor Age. At least that’s the Tudors’ story, and, apparently, they’re sticking to it.

-- Brad Rudy (

Beware the ploys of a tyrant
by uppermiddlebrow
Friday, November 13, 2009
The theme that comes across with dazzling clarity in the Tavern's current production of Richard III is the ease with which a clever sociopath can manipulate others into cooperating with his evil schemes. One keeps thinking that in his Crookback Shakespeare was forewarning us, in vain, against Stalin. But it’s easy to recognize a manipulator after the fact. Who should we beware of now and for the future?
The intricacies of the plot and the royal family tree are impossible to follow, even for an Englishman fairly well-versed in history, so don’t even try. The theme’s the thing that matters, and as corpses pile up that is impossible to miss. Several tableaux and individual performances are especially worth savoring in the production, too.
The Tavern does a lovely job with the acclamation scene, where Buckingham - who wanted to be Richard's Karl Rove and failed to grasp that Richard was his own Rove and then some - gets London's Lord Mayor and burghers (and the audience) to beg Richard to serve as king, while Richard pretends to be too busy with his prayers for such worldly affairs. The manipulation of a crowd is relatively easy.
In case after case, individuals who should know better are cajoled into falling in with Richard's dynastic plans, only to fall afoul of him once they lose their usefulness. The curse of dowager queen Margaret, powerfully played by Laura Cole, seems to slip the minds of the other nobles as soon as Richard begins with his blandishments. It is especially shocking that, in the last act, after he's eliminated ten named characters before our (and her) very eyes, he can still turn the dowager whose sons he has murdered in the Tower and get her to woo her own daughter to be his next bride. Drew Reeves and Heidi Cline are pitch perfect in this scene. These royals are so power-mad that they will forget everything for another chance to be on top of the heap, and Richard's Macchiavellian insight allows him to play their ambitions perfectly.
Another scene that deserves mention is Clarence's murder, where three strong actors play off each other superbly to bring out the humanity of Shakespeare's vision. Nick Faircloth once more has us in the palm of his hand, with warmth, naturalness and clear diction.
This is not Shakespeare's best play. Dramatic structure loses out to chronological verisimilitude. And the tyrant is not a sufficiently complex a character to hold our interest for three long hours. Crookback is more Marlovian than most of Shakespeare’s characters, which is fun for awhile but palls at length. Yet it is well worth seeing this production for individual scenes and performances, such as those singled out above; for the unusual number of strong female characters; and most of all for that overall sense of the vulnerability of political systems to tyranny that Shakespeare conveys so well.
Please, think of the children
by OctoberSundance
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
When you’ve achieved near-perfection, how can you possibly top it?

Opening a full year after the prodigious "Henry VI" trilogy, "Richard III" picks up right where Part 3 left off, with the scheming hunchback-who-would-be-king (Drew Reeves, reprising his role) speaking of his plan to take the throne. He is a villain for the ages, a tyrant who’s more than willing to mow down women, children and his own flesh and blood to get what he wants. And the story of his rise and fall makes for an epic night of theater.

Admittedly, unlike September’s superb "As You Like It," this is not a crowd-pleaser. It’s the sort of production that requires (and provides) a reference guide to prevent the audience from confusing the characters, who are all crammed onto one playbill page in itty-bitty font. The plot is so convoluted that even Cliff’s Notes would have trouble simplifying the storyline. Clocking in at over three hours, it is also Shakespeare’s longest play and proudly bears the infamy that comes with such a distinction.

But those who are drawn to plays such as "Richard III" are most likely anticipating great performances over plot. The role of Richard is a multilayered one, and Reeves dives into it with as much gusto as can be expected from an actor of his caliber and experience. The result is intriguing, although Reeves fails to mine any sort of sympathy for Richard. Granted, this is hardly a humane character, but a scene toward the end, in which the damned king is visited by the spirits of those he killed, could’ve been ripe for a revelation.

The number of people Richard murdered or ordered killed is staggering; just about every other actor in the production “dies” at his hand, including those who play his nephews, who are virtually children. It’s still early in the season, which means that the members of the current Apprentice Company are getting their feet wet in minor roles, and it’s fun to predict which ones will go on to create magic in future shows. As for the Tavern regulars, many of them are here as well, and in top form. Matt Nitchie, in particular, seems to be on a quest to prove that he can play anything; as the dying Edward IV and the murderous Sir Tyrrel, he is completely different but equally captivating. Heidi Cline and Tony Brown, as Queen Elizabeth and Lord Hastings, respectively, are also especially good here.

Comparisons to "Henry VI" are inevitable, as the War of the Roses drags on across all four plays. So how does "Richard III" stack up to his young predecessor? Is it just as good? The short answer is no, but few productions could stand alongside last season’s trilogy. Performance-wise, "Richard III" offers a satisfying continuation to the final days before the Tudors’ rise to power. It’s hardly an escapist fantasy, but it’s the perfect satiation for a Shakespeare aficionado craving an accurate staging of a major era in history. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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