Regiment of women

Richard III

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Justine Lambert
The Looking Glass Theater
422 West 57th St (307-9467)
Non-union production (closes October 11)
Review by Dudley Stone

For its fourth annual gender-bender, the Looking Glass Theater is presenting Shakespeare's Richard III with an all-female cast. "Set in a world without men," explains director Justine Lambert, "all hes have been changed to shes and the infamous hunchback is a ruthlessly ambitious woman in a completely female world, a world of both luxuriant sensuality and brutal violence - explicitly erotic and de facto lesbian." Ms. Lambert wishes to provide an opportunity "for woman to portray as women" many of the stereotypically masculine strong virtues and vices.

Two years ago for the Looking Glass, Ms. Lambert directed a fine OOBR Award-winning production of Chekhov's The Three Sisters. This production, however, seemed uncontrolled and unfocused; many of the lines were just shouted, and some of the acting was over -the- top. However, even if the delivery generally lacked poetry, it did sound natural, and almost everyone could be heard clearly throughout. For this, much thanks (verse coach, Mark Enright).

The "luxuriant sensuality" resulted in a "touchy-feely" Shakespeare that had all the characters nuzzling, stroking, and feeling one another, and most entrances and exits involved a stroke of the cheek or a kiss on the mouth. Ms. Lambert was seeking to answer the questions, "What happens in a world where everyone you meet is a potential sex partner?" and, "What would happen to feminity in a world without men?" These actions were distracting, though, and soon became tiresome. Although Ms. Lambert did move the play along speedily, it had very few dramatic pauses and hence lacked variety. The sword play in the brief battle that concludes the play seemed tame (Deborah Keller and Denise Alessandria Hurd), and the final speech of the play, by Richmond, was drowned out by the closing music (Ken Nowell) - although, to be fair, this was a preview performance. If you are interested in a theatrical curio, by all means go and see it!

In the demanding role of Richard, Jodi Tomasso was quite expressive and worked hard at the villainy; Kathleen Brant was assured and well-spoken in a whole range of roles as Margaret, Brackenbury, Queen Edward, the Mayor and Captain Blunt; and Michelle Melland did nice work as Buckingham. Acting honors, though, to Tanisha Thompson for a nicely differentiated Elizabeth and Richmond, spoken "trippingly upon the tongue." Also: Rachel Scott, Melissa Bell, Cecilia Jordan, Christina Nicosia, Jean Leavitt, Lee Etta Sutton, Lindsay Stone, Danielle deLuise, Leah Bosworth, and Ronete Levenson. lighting design: Nathaniel Packard; costume design: Megan Healey; set design: Regina M. Garcia.
Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting 1/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1998 Dudley Stone