A murderous and ambitious villain with a silky, persuasive tongue, Richard III is one of the most infamous characters of classic literature. Steve Weingartner inhabits this malevolent persona and commands the stage as the star of a new production by A Noise Within, in Glendale.
Believed to be one of Shakespeare”™s earliest plays, The Tragedy of Richard III was written circa 1591 and charts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. The esteemed Glendale-based theater company has chosen Shakespeare”™s battle-torn drama to kick off their 2009-10 season – the final season before they move to their brand new home in Pasadena next year.
Reading almost like a cross between Hamlet (the many soliloquies) and Othello (the poisonous and persuasive rhetoric), the appeal of this historical drama lies in the compelling account of the rise and fall of a royal driven to eliminate all that stand between him and his ascension to the British throne.
According to wikipedia, much that was previously considered factual about Richard III has been rejected as false propaganda by modern historians. In particular, Richard was represented by Tudor writers as being physically deformed, which was regarded as evidence of his evil character. The withered arm, limp and crooked back of legend are now believed to be fabrications, and though questionable, Shakespeare”™s negative portrayal of the ruler have long been taken as the authoritative history of events.
Director Geoff Elliot delivers a fairly faithful rendition of Shakespeare”™s play, setting the action in and around London during the early 1480s. Designed by Darcy Scanlin, with assistance from Abra Brayman, the majestic set is simple and versatile, with its rough hewn blocks of charcoal-grey stone and shallow stone staircases and platforms. The luxurious and authentic-looking costumes designed by Nikki Delhomme, with assistance from Lynette Adams and Christina Bayer, bring color and vibrancy to the stage, thanks to their lush velvets, brocades and furs, as well as silvery breast plates and chain mail armour.
As the play opens, we hear the unsettling sound of clashing swordplay, screaming horses and see the glow of fiery battle (sound design by Patrick Hotchkiss). This evocative soundscape gives way to haunting voice of a boy soprano. Pretty soon our key villain, Richard, limps onto the stage from behind the last audience row, dragging his twisted leg and declaiming his first speech – “Now is winter of our discontent/ Made glorious summer by this sun of York…”Â – to memorable effect.
With his eye on the crown and steel in his heart, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, gleefully murders his way to his seat on the throne of England.Â Fueled by unquenchable bloodlust and endowed with an uncanny ability to charm his victims, this “bottled spider” weaves an intricate web and inevitably ensnares his own soul. Steve Weingartner plays the evil usurper with evident relish, seducing both us, the audience, and the gullible Anne, his cousin, who he effectively woos within a single speech despite having been responsible for the slaughter of her husband and his father.
While Weingartner gives a superb performance as the conniving, treacherous and toxic royal, Apollo Dukakis also shines as the ailing King Edward IV. Deborah Strang galvanizes the stage with her riveting rendition of Queen Margaret, the banished widow of King Henry VI, whose dire warnings about the machinations of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, fall on the deaf ears of the court. It”™s when she and Richard face off on stage that the electricity really sparks.
A Noise Within”™s production of Richard III is part of Shakespeare for a New Generation, a national initiative sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Arts Midwest.
234 South Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA 91204
Richard III plays in repertory on the following dates:
Thursday, October 22, 8 pm
Friday, October 23, 8 pm
Saturday, October 24, 2 pm
Saturday, October 24, 8 pm
Wednesday, November 18, 8 pm
Thursday, November 19, 8 pm
Sunday, November 29, 2 pm
Sunday, November 29, 7 pm
Wednesday, December 2, 8 pm
Thursday, December 3, 8 pm
Friday, December 4, 8 pm
Saturday, December 12, 2 pm
Saturday, December 12, 8 pm
$44 (Friday and Saturday evenings, Sunday matinees);
$40 (Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings, Saturday matinees);
Group rates and special rates for school groups available
To purchase tickets or for a full season brochure, call 818-240-0910 x1 or
visit their website.
review by Pauline Adamek