Where: The Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park
When: In repertory through Sept. 29; various dates at 8 p.m.
Finest company of actors yet for Old Globe Theatre’s vastly entertaining production of “Richard III”
By Charlene Baldridge | SDUN Theater Critic
It is possible that in the 77 years of William Shakespeare in Balboa Park, there has never been a finer company of “Richard III” than this one, produced by The Old Globe in the outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre through Sept. 29.
Never have there been such strong and vulnerable women. Each is a riveting force of nature. Never have there been male courtiers more attractive, clearly motivated and well spoken.
And never has there been a more twisted, malevolent or self-deluded Richard, Duke of Gloucester, than Jay Whittaker, who is remembered both for his portrayal of Mozart in last season’s “Amadeus” as well as for his magnificent Edgar in 2010’s “King Lear.” Comedy lies in Richard’s unfailing egotism, which in Whittaker’s hands is vastly entertaining.
British director Lindsay Posner makes an auspicious Old Globe debut with “Richard.” Though Ralph Funicello’s set may be indeterminate in time and meaning – it is said to imply that such power-usurping machinations continue to this day – what is certain is the alacrity and clarity of the performances. Seldom has three hours passed in so cohesive and cogent a fashion.
Richard, the deformed Duke who would be King, employs every means at his disposal to attain and keep the throne. His ploys include seduction, coercion and murder. As he does with his other great malevolent, Iago, Shakespeare gives the actor personifying Richard numerous scenes in which he addresses onlookers, revealing his megalomania. It would be easy for a lesser actor to go too far or to present a caricature of evil. Instead, Whittaker’s full-tilt Richard personifies it and makes it human.
He does not love being hated; he is motivated by hatred, that which is aimed at him and that which he aims at others.
The women Richard contends with include his mother, the Duchess of York (played by Deborah Radloff); his sister-in-law Elizabeth (Dana Green), who is married to and later widow of Richard’s brother, the reigning monarch, Edward IV; Queen Margaret, widow of Henry VI, who has returned from exile to warn the court about Richard; and Queen Margaret’s daughter, Lady Anne (Vivia Font), whom Richard woos, wins over and plans to discard when it is expedient.
Because they stand in the way of his succession, Richard eliminates his brother, the Duke of Clarence (Happy Anderson) and then his own young nephews, the Duke of York (Aidan Hayek) and Edward, Prince of Wales (Jonas McMullen). When Kind Edward IV dies, Richard gains the throne.
Meanwhile, the Earl of Richmond (Dan Amboyer) flees into exile, raises an army, returns and defeats Richard in battle, becoming Henry VII. He takes Lady Anne for his bride, putting the House of Lancaster on the throne and ending the reign of Richard III, the last king from the House of York.
Bob Peskovitz portrays Richard’s brother, Edward IV; Robert Foxworth plays Lord Hastings, Edward IV’s chamberlain; Jacques C. Smith portrays Richard’s supporter Henry, Duke of Buckingham; and Charles Janasz plays Stanley, Earl of Derby.
The company of 27 actors – whether seasoned Equity performers, students in the Old Globe-University of San Diego Graduate Theatre program, or community actors – create fascinating and multifaceted characters.
Deirdre Clancy returns as costume designer, here specializing in leather. Her costumes for “Richard III” are fashion plate. Richard’s assistive device, a leg brace without which he collapses, is brilliant. Alan Burrett is lighting designer, Lindsay Jones, sound designer, and Peter Golub provides original music.
“Richard III” plays in rotating repertory with Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” (through Sept. 30) and Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s “Inherit the Wind” (though Sept. 25), and one of the joys of repertory is seeing actors in contrasting roles on alternate nights.
For instance, Green and Amboyer portray lovers – she in trousers! – Rosalind and Orlando in “As You Like It,” in which Smith, so duplicitous and ultimately valiant in “Richard III,” portrays the melancholy Jaques, and Whittaker portrays Oliver, Orlando’s evil older brother.
Foxworth, so strong a courtier in “Richard” returns on alternate nights to portray attorney Henry Drummond (the Clarence Darrow figure) in “Inherit the Wind.” Amboyer plays three roles in total, also performing Bertram Cates (the John Scopes figure) in “Inherit the Wind.”