Our country right now, the national atmosphere, our history, most literature, and contemporary mass entertainment are all filled with the wrestling for power for reasons of ambition and personal gain. Bare Theatre’s production of Richard III tells the story of King Richard III of England (1452-85), according to William Shakespeare; and whether by design or coincidence hearkens to our present time. Bare Theatre continues the story of England’s House of York (the white rose of the War of the Roses) that they began this summer with Henry VI: The War of the Roses in Raleigh Little Theatre’s Louise “Scottie” Stephenson Amphitheatre. This production of Richard III opened Friday night and runs through Nov. 20th at Sonorous Road Theatre in Raleigh, NC.
Director Lucinda Danner Gainey takes note that the verbal battles of peace time struggles for power must be brought to the level of tension and excitement found in war time for dramatic purposes. She and her cast have accomplished that feat almost as well as the true-life spectacle that we in this country are undergoing, only Richard III is truly entertaining.
Gainey’s talented cast maintained a constant flow of action, very audience-aware blocking, tight movement, excellent fight choreography (by Heather J. Strickland), and a knack for finding the humor in this chilling tragedy.
Not credited in the program is the creator of the backdrop for the bare set, consisting of a collection of interestingly designed cloth hangings, which bring color to the black stage. The eclectic costumes and make-up, which follow in the aura of the Henry VI plays are similarly not credited, yet these appurtenances all enhance the atmosphere of the performance.
For the most part, Seth A. Blum handles the mercurial character of Richard adroitly, switching from supportive and familial to ironic and cynically cruel with the toss of a hand or the turn of a phrase. He glistens with the soullessness of the role. For the first few minutes of the opening act, Blum noticeably reached for lines, causing an overemphasis of the words he sought. As the show progressed, his comic ability to inflect wry meaning with a feigned naiveté brought us more deeply into the true nature of Richard’s character.
Rebecca Blum, continuing her role as Queen Margaret from Henry VI, delivers Shakespearean lines with confidence and full understanding of their intent. Blum empowers her role with her curses and the authority from which she teaches some of the other women how to make curses. Despite her bitterness and powerlessness, Margaret remains a testament to the ultimate power of women in the world.
Queen Elizabeth (wife and then widow of King Edward IV) is carried over from Henry VI by Maggie Lea, who gets our sympathy in her palpable grieving for her sons, the famous two princes murdered in the Tower of London.
Benjamin Apple fawns and flatters, as the last of Richard’s supporters, although he can’t manage to commit infanticide for him. Apple does commendable work in this role, showing a wide range of emotion. And Lady Anne, of the House of Lancaster, cajoled and enchanted into marriage by the wily Richard III, is strongly played by Maxine Eloi.
This large cast has no weak links. We’ve noted a few performers, but the entire cast does great work. A special shout out to Audrey Jones and Daniel Reese, who play the two little princes. Jones is also charming as Margaret Plantagenet.
Especially in the preposterous world of North Carolina’s HB2, it is a great pleasure to watch Shakespeare played with non-conventional cross-gender casting, which, incidentally, never gets in the way of the role relationships, and reminds us that in the day of The Bard all the female characters would have been performed by men.
Bare Theatre specializes in Shakespeare unadorned — hence their name — and thus emphasize The Bard’s language, depth, and insight, which is why the work continues to enthrall us. This show should be seen.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 5th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Chelsea S. Waddelow: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=8202. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Nov. 7th Triangle Review review by Pamela Vesper and Kurt Benrud and the Nov. 8th review by Dustin K. Britt, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/11/bare-theatres-richard-iii-at-sonorous-road-theatre-is-a-show-that-should-be-seen/ and http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/11/bare-theatres-post-apocalyptic-production-of-richard-iii-is-overlong-needs-pruning/, respectively.)
Bare Theatre presents RICHARD III at 2 p.m. Nov. 6, 8 p.m. Nov. 11 and 12, 2 p.m. Nov. 13, 8 p.m. Nov. 18 and 19, and 2 p.m. Nov. 20 at Sonorous Road Theatre, 209 Oberlin Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27612.
TICKETS: $19.62 ($11.34 students and $16.52 seniors, and active-duty military personnel), including service fee.
BOX OFFICE: 919-322-8819 or http://richard-iii.bpt.me/.
King Richard III of England (1452-85): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_III_of_England (Wikipedia).
Richard III (c. 1592 historical play): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_III_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).
The Script (First Folio, 1623): http://web.archive.org/web/20081006104456/http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/ShaR3F.html (University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center).
Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/study-guides/richard-iii-study-guide (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
William Shakespeare (English playwright and poet, 1564-1616): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare (Wikipedia).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.