Richard III: The man who would be King at Marin Shakespeare
From the moment he appears on the stage Richard will be king. To attain that end he will stop at nothing. He sees himself a victim, cast aside by all the world for the physical deformities, the short stature and hunchback and withered arm, that were his from birth through no fault of his own. He does not see that he has been shunned for other reasons also—his embittered outlook, his unabashedly criminal impulses.
This is Richard. Aidan O’Reilly IS Richard. From his opening soliloquy, faultlessly delivered with just the right blend of pathos and ambition, he lifts this complex character from a mere character of unredeemed villainy, into something more human. Or so it seems, sometimes, until the repetitions of Richard’s deceit on one of his potential foes—Anne (Livia Demarchi), the widow of his first murder—and then another and another, show in ever greater detail the depth of his depravity.
Richard is given to long ruminations on his plans, sometimes shared with others, to assassinate every potential heir to the throne, until there is no one left to stand in his way.
Anne’s husband and her father-in-law were only the first to go. The Duke of Clarence (Nick Sholley), is next, slain in a bloody knifing by a pair of conflicted thugs who offer the only bit of comedy to appear in this staging. Edward dies of grief, leaving behind Elizabeth (Elena Wright) his widow with two young sons—young actors Patrick Ewart and Carl Robinett proving very accomplished in these roles.
There follows a succession of deceits, and murders, some offstage, some in full view. Richard does not intend to hide much. The empty throne beckons to him. Seductions abound, and not only those intended to beget his own heirs from the wombs of the widows of those he has slain. Richard enlists anyone he can to carry out the bloody deeds he plans. Buckingham, powerful lord at court falls completely for his slimy charms and becomes his ally in deceit, failing to see that he will himself one day fall victim to that same deceit. On Richard’s orders Tyrell (Michael Shaeffer in a second role) murders Elizabeth’s boys and the last remaining heirs to the throne, then breaks down before us under the enormity of his crime.
The list of his crimes is endless. With his “me-against-the-world” mindset, seduction is the only tool that Richard has, and he manages to sway almost everyone he encounters in his rise to power. A bribe secures the support of the Lord Mayor of London; Richard’s duplicity engages the church in a show of humility. In a long and mesmerizing moment between Richard and Elizabeth, he almost succeeds in convincing her that in his hands her own daughter, and England will be safe. It is all a lie. Yet when Richard cries out “There is no creature loves me!” we see a fleeting glimpse of the tortured soul that has begotten all this torture. In a stunning scene, he is haunted by all the ghosts of those he has betrayed and slain. In the end, he lies defeated, another bloody corpse on the field of battle he has created.
Ably directed by Robert Currier, to bring out glimpses of humanity amid all the horror of Richard’s mercifully brief reign. Costumes by Abra Berman justapose Richard’s aggressive contemporary military garb with Elizabethan court finery.
Through September 27, 2015
Dominican University’s Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 890 Belle Ave, San Rafael, CA 94901
Box Office: (415) 499-4485
Review by David Hirzel