Oh, The Humanity! “Richard III”Carries On At St. Louis Shakespeare

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The Queen and her court listen to Richard as he pleads his case in St. Louis Shakespeare’s “Richard III.” Photo: Ron James

Leaving death and destruction (mostly death) in his wake, Richard III racks up an impressive kill count as St. Louis Shakespeare brings the villain back to the stage. He takes prisoners, but they don’t last long including his nephews- all to capture the crown until he meets his fate on Bosworth Field.

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The Duchess of York, Queen Elizabeth and Margaret of Anjou discuss their dilemma and possible solutions during “Richard III” at St. Louis Shakespeare. Photo: Ron James

It’s after the infamous War of the Roses and Richard plots and plans to reach the crown despite several obstacles in his way. Charlie Barron is a Richard you just have to root for with his charming grin and his skewed logical thinking as he arranges for the demise of all of those in his way. Going for a limp instead of the standard hunchback (hard to carry off and do all of the jumping, fighting and scheming he must do), he uses the audience as his foil and barometer to measure the bloody path he travels. It’s a strong performance that commands the stage.

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Richard seems to be calculating the fate of one of his young nephews during a scene in “Richard III” at St. Louis Shakespeare. Photo: Ron James

As planned, George mysteriously dies in prison and the King, Edward IV is ailing and soon dies as well. Maxwell Knocke plays George and then tackles several other characters throughout the show and Chuck Winning doubles up as Edward and Sir Robert Brackenbury. Erik Woods and Brian Rolf play Ratcliffe and Catesby with conviction- loyal to Richard- to a point. Richard has trouble maintaining friendships, to say the least.

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Queen Elizabeth consoles her sickly King in St. Louis Shakespeare’s “Richard III.” Photo: Ron James

Michelle Hand does excellent work as Queen Elizabeth. Her confrontations with Richard and her dealings with Anne, Margaret and the Duchess of York are some of the most powerful scenes in the play. Jennifer Theby-Quinn is Anne, reluctantly betrothed to Richard (after he has her husband killed). She makes a formidable yet slightly frightened foil to Richard. Jeanitta Perkins also turns in a strong performance as Margaret, Queen to the soon-to-be-late Henry VI (yes, another victim of our villainous hero). She lays the curse on Richard and watches as the curses soon come to fruition. And finally, Margeau Steinau delivers the goods as Cecily, the Duchess of York. She, too, is wise to the machinations of Richard but can do little to stop him.

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Richard prepares for the battle at Bosworth Field in “Richard III” at St. Louis Shakespeare. Photo: Ron James

John Foughty’s Buckingham also becomes a loyal follower who is betrayed by Richard as so many of the court turn on him including Michael Pierce as the Marquess of Dorset, Scott McDonald’s Early of Rivers, the Earl of Derby as portrayed by Tim Callahan and Joseph Cella’s Lord Hastings. They all meet the fate of Richard’s wrath as do his young nephews as portrayed by Alex Bollini and Riley James. Rounding out the cast in multiple roles are Brennan Eller, Andre Eslamian and Erik Kuhn who gets to strike the fatal blow on Bosworth Field as the Earl of Richmond.

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Jennifer Theby-Quinn as Anne confronts Richard- Charlie Barron during the St. Louis Shakespeare production of “Richard III.” Photo: Ron James

Suki Peters, Artistic Director of St. Louis Shakespeare, has done a marvelous job of directing “Richard III” with the large cast on a very small stage at the Ivory Theatre. Her stage pictures are breathtaking at times and, along with fight choreographer Erik Kuhn, has put together an impressive final fight at Bosworth. Kyra Bishop has designed a multi-level set that works well with the large cast and Scott McDonald’s lights are superb. J.C. Krajick’s costumes are impressive as well.

“Richard III” is not one of Shakespeare’s easier plays to pull off. With the convoluted plot and cast of characters, it’s sometimes hard to follow. But this production is clear and precise and moves at a very good pace. St. Louis Shakespeare’s production of “Richard III” plays at the Ivory through April 17th. Give them a call at 314-361-5664 for tickets or more information.

 

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