Spotlight: Richard III
With this show, Starting Gate Productions bids farewell to the Loading Dock Theater as the company prepares to relocate one freeway exit east, to the Mounds Theatre. The cast of Richard III is headed by a fine performance by Garry Geiken as Shakespeare's most black-hearted villain. Geiken's Richard is a man in constant pain from his deformities, whose chief pleasure in life is derived from the dark ironies that arise from his malicious manipulation of all those around him. Because the theater is so intimate, the production affords an opportunity to watch all the subtlety of an outstanding depiction. Director Zach Curtis has put the action in an indeterminate historical setting, Steven M. Kath's set design being primarily composed of sheets of battered metal, so a lack of knowledge of the considerable historical background behind the action isn't an insurmountable impediment. While the supporting cast ranges from unexceptional to quite good, Craig Johnson provides an interesting wrinkle--over the course of several quick costume changes, he portrays two of Richard's brothers and then his elderly mother. Johnson produces unique textures in each performance, working up to the thunderous outbreak of the Duchess of York condemning and cursing her bloodthirsty offspring. It's a long night, at three hours including intermission, but Geiken and the sheer power of the play keep things from bogging down. There's a bit of a letdown toward the end, when the bare-bones sets and costumes prove not quite up to the task of Richard's battlefield showdown with Richmond, but it remains a tight production with a solid pace and sense of intelligence throughout. By the time Richard, in his tent the day before his death, faces the realization that no one on earth would lament his demise, Geiken has shown all the reasons why this should be the case. Still, he makes the awful Richard charming along the way, and this epitome of twisted evil provides ample fascination when brought to life by such skilled work.
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