Richard III at the Woodward Shakespeare Festival

Jun 27, 2015 | 2015 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Terrance Mc Arthur

Kayla Weber’s set on The Festival Stage in Woodward Park looks like the metaphorical attic of the Woodward Shakespeare Festival, littered with bits and pieces of past productions: toppled columns from Julius Caesar, plywood trees, chunks of Macbeth, ironwork from A Streetcar Named Desire. The black set is embellished with rows of gold-stenciled designs, and a red band of paint next to the stage floor looks like dried blood that has seeped from behind the scenery. This is the world of the Greg Taber and Broderic Beard directed production of Richard III the WSF is presenting through July 11.


Part of the cast of RICHARD III

Taber has been interpreting Shakespeare for some time, deconstructing and reconstructing plays, moving scenes, deleting dialogue, and sometimes starring himself. It begins with a Richard-kills-a-King fantasy sequence, and a Mouseketeer Roll Call of the characters the actors will play while Taber blithely tells how Richard will dispose of them, all this before Richard gets to the beginning of Shakespeare’s script, the famous “Now is the winter of our discontent” soliloquy.

Taber’s Richard isn’t hunchbacked; he appears to have partial paralysis of a leg and an arm. He has a mischievous smile and often sits, observing, like Johnny Carson at his desk on The Tonight Show. He doesn’t have Ed McMahon at his side; he has an enigmatic Page (Joshua Taber), watching, dressed more and more like Richard, saying some of his lines, echoing his poses, performing acts Richard’s body cannot do…a Mini-Me who can kill. Is the Page a real person, or is he only in Richard’s mind, a manifestation of his desire for handsomeness and agility?wsf

Jay Parks is decked out in Marlon Brando’s biker regalia from The Wild Ones as Buckingham, loyal to Richard…up to a point. Renee Newlove is cinched into a black bustier, a red skirt, and red/black high-heeled boots as Elizabeth, mother of the “Princes in the Tower” (who are never seen). Rick Adamson plays a powerless king, a dark-clad killer, and a professorial pedant who nearly talks his way out of death, an impressive array of characters that show his versatility.

Beard assays a working-class murderer, basic noblemen, and a foppish toady who oozes his way through any situation (in this century, he would be on “Entourage”), and he also designed a stage combat sequence that hurts.

Jake Sherwood gets to be a confused Lord Mayor, as well as a murderer (a lot of murderers, here, but there was a War of the Roses going on. Watch for the roses, by the way. They help you tell which side a player is on, and tally up the body count in a visual way). Jessica Reedy is a glacially dignified Duchess of York, while Donna Halliburton has the opportunity to get verbally medieval on everybody as Queen Margaret, who hates everybody for what they did or didn’t do. Weber steps onstage to be Anne, the hapless object of Richard’s affections.wsf

This production of Richard III (WSF staged it before with Jaguar Bennett as the title monarch) twists the mind. Is Richard a villain, or is he a person who tires of being treated as a nothing and takes what he should have had? The audience can decide.

The Festival is free, but park admission is $5 per vehicle. Donations are encouraged. Reservations are available. For more information, see their website.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public’s information needs.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.