Richard III

By William Shakespeare
Frog and Peach Company, Inc.
Directed by Lynnea Benson
Equity Showcase (closed)
Review by Dudley Stone

This, the Frog and Peach's third production of free Shakespeare, simply did not measure up to the relatively high standards of the company's King John and Hamlet. In many places it seemed under-rehearsed. It lacked unity, and, except for a few notable exceptions, poetry and music. The company has been praised in the past for throwing off the shackles of the ``veddy veddy Brit tradition'' of acting the verse and making it more natural and accessible. This time, though, its very fast pacing resulted in a kind of ``machine-gun'' Shakespeare where a lot of the meaning and almost all the poetry was lost. Speeches were often gabbled and without needed dramatic pauses or verbal variety.

Lynnea Benson's usually assured direction seemed unsure this time, and some of her casting choices were poor, notably Douglas Stone (The Duke of Buckingham), Prince Edward (Aris Alvarado) and the talented Bryant Fraser (Lord Hastings), who was given a small part and killed off early. Ted Zurkowski (Richard III) did not match his previous good work as King John and Hamlet. His speeches, for the most part, lacked power and often seemed thrown away. The kind of snake-like cunning that would be needed to win over a wife being courted by Richard over the coffin of the husband he has murdered-- admittedly a notoriously difficult task for even the great actors -- was missing here.

Four performances, though, stood out. Carolyn Sullivan-Zinn (Duchess of York) did bring out the poetry and spoke the lines beautifully. So, too, did Vivian Landau (the understudy) who played Queen Elizabeth and also did good work as Jane Tyrell. Tom Knutson was fine as the Duke of Clarence and King Edward IV, and as the latter was strong, passionate and moving. Finally, Ms. Benson made an inspired casting choice in Midori Nakamura as the Earl of Richmond. Ms. Nakamura was an exciting stage presence, who, with great panache, inspired her troops and the audience with her impassioned call to battle.

The set (John Kelly) was appropriately dark and effective, but Janet Thomas's costumes lacked unity (Lady Ratcliff was dressed like a Venetian gondolier, the Lord Cardinal wore a cossack shirt, and Prince Edward a baseball cap back-to-front). Also featuring: Leone Fogle Hechler; Terry Tocatins; Jack Rewkowski; Howard Laniardo; Eric Masters; Angela Bonacasa; Silvana Vienne; and Mervyn Haines, Jr.

Still, when all is said and done, two out of three ain't bad, and the company is to be congratulated and encouraged in their efforts to bring free Shakespeare to New Yorkers (the house was packed). Excelsior!

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 0
Acting 1
Set 1
Costumes 0
Lighting/Sound 1
Copyright 1996 Dudley Stone

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