By William Shakespeare
Directed by Belinda Bremner
At Austin Gardens, Oak Park
“Now is the winter of our discontent”.
“A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!”.
“Conscience is but a word that cowards use, devised at first to keep the strong in awe”.
“So wise so young, they say, do never live long.”—quotes from Richard III
Strong lead performance anchors fine outdoor production of Richard III
Richard III is a most compelling character who seduces the audience making us complicit in his nasty deeds. Kevin Theis plays the bad-armed, humped-back and short-footed Duke/King (Richard III) as a charming—even charismatic persona with whom from the opening soliloquy we become lured into a partnership of evil. Richard III, the play, unfolds as a well spoken work. I enjoyed the fine cast as they wove the power struggle between the York and Lancaster families for the English throne.
We are enticed by Theis’ sly performance as Richard even when he outlines his evil plan in a monologue that gets us to almost like this charming but purely evil villain. His asides to the audiences with their wink and sour faces keep us intoxicated with Richard’s manipulations leading to killings that lead to his ascending to the English crown. Richard III is more than a flat symbol of evil such as the Vice character from Medieval literature. Rather, we see Richard as a cunning character most adapt and at language as a weapon. He uses his deformed body to win sympathy then cashes it in as he kills his way to power. Treachery, trickery and betrayal with raw brute force are his tools. He states that being “unloved” is the source of his immorality. Richard demonstrates how evil is used as a means to justify the lust for power. Kevin Theis brings a manic energy to Richard that is compelling.
With the help of the Duke of Buckingham (the commanding Dave Skvarla)), Richard seduces, lures and murders everyone in his way toward ultimate power. Everyone became pawns in Richard’s game. Filled with The Bard’s poetic language, where supernatural gloom and doom are played out in curses, dreams involving witchcraft and devil symbols, Richard III demonstrates Shakespeare’s intelligent use of monologues and asides. Filled with stirring dialogue that draws in audiences into the adventures of Richard’s quest for the English crown, we see how Rickard’s physical deformity makes him an outcast thus justifying his treachery.
Director Belinda Bremner has cast well, especially the women as —Queen Margaret (Carin Silkaitis), Lady Anne (Jhenal Mootzl), Duchess of York (Barbara Figgins) and Queen Elizabeth (Sara Nichols)—each presented memorable performances. This is a terrific female cast.
The action is furious; the acting outstanding; and strong, nuanced and emotionally drenching performance by Kevin Theis ar Richard makes this outdoor production worth packing a picnic basket and lugging lawn chairs to the beautiful Austin Gardens in Oak Park for food and some fine Shakespeare.
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For more info checkout the Richard III page at theatreinchicago.com
At Austin Gardens, Oak park, IL, call 708-445-4440, www.oakparkfestival.com, tickets $25, $20 seniors, $15 students, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through August 25, 2012