The meaning of deformity
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Heidi Lauren Duke
Nicu’s Spoon (www.spoontheater.org)
Spoon Theater, 38 West 38
Equity approved showcase (through July 29)
Review by David Mackler
In Shakespeare’s Richard III, deformity is often portrayed as an outward manifestation of moral decay. Nicu’s Spoon’s production begins with Richard (Henry Holden) sprawled (passed out?) on the floor, next to a pair of crutches. He opens his eyes, looks at the crutches as if he’s never seen them before, then slams them down in fury. Holden is an actor who needs his crutches to get around, so this is no actor-y touch. The disability is real, and director Heidi Lauren Duke uses it, along with other devices, to give layers to the play.
The most fascinating device is that Richard is also played by Andrew Hutcheson, billed as “co-player for Richard,” who is upstage in a corner, behind a lectern, speaking Richard’s monologues. Hutcheson is tall, imposing, deep voiced and well-spoken, and the contrast with Holden, who is smaller and speaks Richard’s lines with an evil-pixie demeanor when in scenes with others, is striking. This Richard clearly has a different sense of himself than how he is seen by others, and this goes a long way in explaining how he manipulates his way to being crowned king. If this Richard could have used his power for good instead of evil, he would have been quite the motivational speaker. However, he seems to believe his own self-written clippings, so it is also his undoing. Holden and Hutcheson speak concurrently only three times, and it’s when Richard loses control, or is desperate (“my kingdom for ...”).
Although the pacing is uneven, resulting in a rather long evening, there are some very good performances around these Richards, and some intriguing set pieces. Wynne Anders’ Queen Margaret is simply astonishing, a mix of fury and anguish, despair and revenge, madness and ice-cold sanity. Amber Allison’s Lady Anne can’t quite believe she believes Richard’s line, but such is the need for relief from grief and pain. Clarence (Jason Loughlin) shows real humanity in the Tower scene with the First Murderer (Scott David Nogi); Rebecca Challis is a welcome comic presence as a Hollywood star-like Queen Elizabeth; Haley Channing makes for an imposingly regal Duchess of York.
When Richard is modestly asserting his not being qualified to be king, he is brought on stage atop a wheeled platform – a terrific image for a physically crippled politician who wants his subjects to think he’s actually unwilling to take the position he has schemed to steal (wait, is this history, or current events?) Later there’s the wonderful and bloody march of those Richard has killed coming to him in a nightmare (ah, the wonders of the subconscious!) And as the body count mounts, there is, appropriately, lots of blood, and by the end the stage is littered with bloody rags. No one is left out, and the sight of Richard turning on himself – with Hutcheson strangling Holden – is Freudian icing.
Steven Wolf’s lighting design works very well (particularly when actors are silhouetted) with Victoria Roxo’s set of arches in various states of sturdiness. Stephanie Barton-Farcas’ costumes are in tune with the characters – angry when they need to be (Queen Margaret), fakely impressive (Richard), or glamorous in her own mind (Queen Elizabeth). It’s a good Richard III - tightening and judicious cutting of some scenes and passages that say again what’s already been said would make it very good.
The cast also includes Jim Williams, Christopher Thompson, and Timothy McDonough.
Copyright 2007 Judd Hollander
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