The sound of his own voice
DICK 2 (a.k.a. Richard II)
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Jesse Edward Rosbrow
Theatre of the Expendable (www.theatreoftheexpendable.org)
Joria Productions, 260 West 36 St., 3rd floor
Equity approved production (closed July 8)
Review by David Mackler
When the hero (or at any rate the title character) of a play has allies named Bushy, Bagot and Green, and his antagonist has pals named Northumberland and Percy, there’s not much doubt as to who will come out on top. And while Theater of the Expendable tips its hand by calling its production Dick 2, it has also cast Jacob Ming-Trent as Richard, the king who is in love with the sound of his own voice. Ming-Trent has a very strong stage presence, so his Richard is not a weakling, but his downfall is that for all his high-falutin’ language, he doesn’t actually say very much. Not a terribly efficient way to run a country, especially with the charismatic Bullingbrooke (the charismatic Alan McNaney) as his rival. It’s not a matter of may-the-best-man-win, but whose slickness will win more powerful followers, and who is going to turn out to be, well, just a big dick.
But the sympathy factor is another matter, and it’s not as clear-cut. The way the lawsuit of Bullingbrooke vs. Mobray (Alisha Soper) is handled reveals all of the character deficiencies and strengths that will ultimately switch the power structure, and history. Richard tries to be Solomon but doesn’t see how badly he’s botched it, Bullingbrooke is still subservient but clearly won’t put up with the sentence, and as Mobray, Soper is clear, concise, and ripe to be swayed by whoever turns out to be stronger. The scene was also an example of the clarity and good acting director Jesse Edward Rosbrow elicited from his cast. Although the production was not uniformly smooth, scenes, sequences and performances commanded attention.
Caitlin McColl’s Dutchesse of Gloucester was a strong presence even as she was clearly bent out of shape by events as they proceeded; Richard ‘humorously’ hoping that by the time he gets to see John of Gaunt (Alexander Yakovleff) it will be too late was matched by Gaunt’s letting him have it with “Thou are landlord not king.”
McNaney’s Bullingbrooke was a strong presence, though in a very different way from Ming-Trent’s Richard, and he will make a fine king. Because of the way the stage was configured (a thrust area with audience on three sides), much of his acting was pointed upstage, which makes sense symbolically until Richard caves, and it’s to McNaney’s credit that he came across so strongly anyway, even without declaiming to the audience.
The acting was good all around, with strong, clear speaking, and clear feeling even when the words came tumbling too fast for complete comprehension (Ming-Trent gave full vent to what is essentially an operatic aria when Richard is unhinged). If there was a problem it was from what could be called age-blind casting, with some confusion because the Duke of Yorke (Christopher Hardy) was younger than his nephews Richard and Bullingbrooke, and perhaps a few of the bodies on stage were more awkward than confident. While the costumes were mostly black, the well-coordinated color coding of accessories (by Marta Tejada) helped show allegiances and style. The set was simply a platform with one lonely chair that served as throne, but the emptiness allowed discrete playing areas, and the large cast could assemble without crowding. Lighting (designed by Alison Cherry) was subtle and unobtrusive.
And while it was extremely tempting to draw current political parallels (Dick? Bushy? Ineffectual leader?), this production didn’t do it – not overtly anyway. If the audience did it, well, isn’t that what art is for?
Also with Gregory Engbrecht, John Forkner, Mim Granahan (a strong Dutchesse of Yorke), Jennifer Lagasse, Andrew Nisinson, Geoffrey Roecker, Raushanah Simmons (a striking presence), and Morgan Anne Zipf. Drew Leary did the effective fight choreography – this Richard didn’t go down easily.
Copyright 2007 David Mackler
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