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Reviewed by:
  • Richard III
  • Michael W. Shurgot
Richard III Presented by Seattle Shakespeare Company at Center House Theatre, Seattle, Washington, January 6-29, 2006. Directed and adapted by Gregg Loughridge. Set by Rex Carleton. Costumes by Frances Kenny. Lights by Tim Wratten. Sound by Robert A. Langley. Fights by Gordon Carpenter. With Alyson Bedford (Lady Anne, 1st Murderer, 3rd citizen, Catesby), David Goldstein (Lord Hastings, 2nd Murderer, Lord Stanley), Lori Larsen (Queen Margaret, Brakenbury, Lord Ely), Todd Jefferson Moore (Richard III), Connor Toms (Richmond, Rivers, 1st Citizen, Tyrrel), Amber Wolfe (Queen Elizabeth, Mayor), Richard Ziman (Buckingham, Clarence, Moderator). Digital Actors: Andrew Litsky (King Edward IV), Conor McCarthy (Edward, Prince of Wales), Saul Goodwin (Young Duke of York), Ken Holmes (King Henry VI), Gemma King (Young Elizabeth), Drew Rowny (Prince of Wales).

Falstaff would not have liked this production; it was neither fish nor fowl. For the second installment in its Chamber Series—shortened versions of major Shakespearean plays with many scenes and characters cut—Seattle Shakespeare Company staged Richard III as a struggle for control of a twenty-first century multinational corporation. Given this milieu, SSC director Gregg Loughridge made use of every contemporary means of visual and aural communication. He divided his actors and thus their characters between "live" and "digital"; the former appeared on stage, while the latter appeared only on a huge upstage TV screen. This splitting of the characters may have lowered production costs, but it also suggested that nearly half the characters were not really "in" the play's story; they existed only in either digital or cyber space, to be shown on screen or paged only when Richard or Buckingham needed to tell us more of their corporate power struggle. Stage right was a complex computer system on top of Richard's large desk, underneath which was his liquor stash, to which he resorted frequently. Richard anxiously used his PowerPoint to flash images of the digital characters on the TV screen; he sent and received emails and faxes from both live and digital characters; spoke many lines, especially to Buckingham, as cell phone messages; sent frantic instructions to Buckingham and Catesby via FedEx; and attended virtual corporate meetings via digital TV hookups and conference calls. While this ultra-techno presentation was clever, and certainly evoked contemporary corporate culture and its incessant need for instant communication, it was also distracting. Loughridge's blend of live theatre, film, and wireless gadgetry subsumed the entire play, as Shakespeare's script became merely an excuse for yet another clever bit of techno-savvy staging. While Shakespeare's plays can certainly support contemporary settings extremely well—consider for example Richard Eyre's celebrated neo-fascist Richard III starring Ian McKellen at the National Theatre in 1990–91—Loughridge's attempt to update and modernize the play minimized rather than highlighted Shakespeare's poetry and failed to clarify the play's potential relevance to contemporary power struggles.

Upstage stood a large chair decorated with a wide, red sash and festooned with red balloons. As images of World War II flashed across the TV screen, and then images of Richard's corporate board, Todd Jefferson Moore as Richard strode across the black and white checkerboard tiles towards the audience. His role in this game of corporate checkers—to [End Page 121] emerge as "king"—was clear: he would use his guile and his electronic army to outfox his corporate competition. Moore was a tall, lanky Richard with a disfigured right shoulder noticeable under his loosely fitting business suit, and a limp in his right leg. He was neither sinister nor threatening, and knew it; his opening soliloquy, an unemotional, objective statement of obstacles to be overcome, was heralded by his board members and cheered loudly by offstage supporters. Words, images, faxes, clever emails, video snapshots of his enemies—these were to be his weapons. Alyson Bedford as Lady Anne wore black and threw Richard's proffered red rose back at him. When Richard offered his neck to Anne, she violently thrust his knife right to his throat and kept it there while he pleaded his love for her. After her exit, and after convincing her that he loved her despite having...


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