The Bridge Production Group’s Richard III by William Shakespeare, now playing at The Fourth Street Theatre on the Lower Eastside through November 27th is an eye-catching, attention-holding production that offers some highly creative and entertaining twists to this classic tale.
I won’t pretend that I am a huge fan of the modern retelling of this historical play, but I must admit that from the moment I walked into the theater, my curiosity was heightened. The stage looks more like a killing room for the fictional serial killer Dexter on Showtime than anything else. There are plastic, see-through curtains which make you wonder just how bloody this production is going to be, and the sets are clear plastic flats that hang from the ceiling and are moved around by the cast throughout the play to create the space needed for the scene. Personally, I loved it. It was cool, different, inventive and fun to watch. The lighting and sound and some visual projections added an element that was tongue in cheek at moments and disturbing at others. Shakespeare is not easy for everyone to follow, so any help you can give a scene is perfect. And all these elements added to the action.
The ascension of Richard III is of historical significance in that it was as violent and treacherous as any other in history. Richard, who suffered from spinal scoliosis and who is often depicted as malformed in this play, was actually far from incapable of committing any act that would ensure his rise to the throne. Although many productions play up the handicap in what is a more symbolic gesture than actual historical truth, its one of those things that makes the character so much fun to watch. That’s also why the play is so difficult to produce… Yet so desirable to watch. Let’s not forget that it is also one of Shakespeare’s longest and therefore requires some careful cutting. Overall, I felt this version was well presented in terms of timing and editing.
Clever costuming, scenic design, lighting and projection complement a well directed production by Max Hunter and Jacob Owen, who also adds some choreography in some unexpected instances when the characters fall into what is almost a musical number and she clever movement. The acting is solid and committed and the performers bring this difficult text alive and I feel capture the heart of the story with great energy and style. There are some spotty moments and choices, but this is a young cast attempting to connect with a young audience and it works.
Kudos to this highly inventive production that runs until November 27th and is championed by Artistic Advisory Chair, Gianna Palminteri.
The show plays at the The Fourth Street Theatre, 83 East 4th Street, and tickets can be bought by emailing email@example.com or visiting https://www.artful.ly/the-bridge-production-group/store/events/10245