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Richard III Review

May 16, 2013

RichardIII@ZJU_PostcardAttending a performance of Shakespeare is always a treat. Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group could abandon the macabre and devote themselves to perfecting Shakespeare. Though I hope they don’t as I love their macabre as well. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing two of Shakespeare’s works performed at ZJU now. They preserve the integrity and more importantly the dialogue and verse while compressing the Plays into under an hour. I do not envy Denise Devin (adaptation and director) in this task I don’t know how she pulls it off but she does so every time.

For those of you who don’t know Richard III is where we receive to iconic Shakespearean lines. “Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York”, and “My kingdom for a horse”. Both lines convey so much with so little. The first, things were horrible now things are getting better because the house of York is rising. It could also be taken that our refers to Richard (W. Lochridge O’Bryan) and his co-conspirators the audience. We (the audience) are after all discontented that Richard is not King, he thinks were on his side. “My kingdom for a horse” shows great desperation he’s losing the battle if you could get him a horse so he could escape he would give up his Kingdom. A Kingdom he spent years and the blood of others to acquire.RichardIII@ZJU_PHOTO_1

A little history about the Play itself. Richard is a plotter and schemer he’s not happy because he’s not King. So he plots and he schemes, moves pawns around has people jailed and un-jailed slowly moving his way to the top. Once he gets there Civil War breaks out and it all ends in blood, his. Richard is an interesting character he’s the villain but in some ways you sympathize with him. He’s disfigured, a hunchback and it’s clear he’s not very well loved by his family or other Nobles. So he plots and schemes trying to win hearts and minds through flattery or force whichever tool happens to work best for the job at hand.

W. Lochridge O’Bryan plays the part of a villain quite well. His asides to the audience let you in on his machinations. It takes a powerful character and actor to hold the stage alone and he does this nicely. Margaret (Tina Preston) makes a vindictive, angry, revenge seeking woman seem sympathetic. You understand she’s lashing out because she’s lost everything. Yes she’s cursing everyone to horrible fates, but her curses come from a place of pain. Tina is able to convey this with her voice, face, and mannerisms. It’s not easy to make someone seeking revenge sympathetic and it was a nice touch. Lady Anne (Anna Gillcrist) is the secondary object of desire for Richard. Besides the throne he wants to woo her, in part it does appear that he has genuine feelings for her. Though it seems at best she is another pawn, at worst a conquest for a man who can never have enough. I commend Anna for taking a character who is in a sense only an object to Richard and humanizing her.RichardIII@ZJU_PHOTO_3

The other actors all come and go playing multiple characters. It’s a bit frenzied but with a careful eye and ear you can tell the characters apart. If you pay attention to their dress and mannerisms, as well as the cadence of their voice you can tell everyone apart. You should be paying attention in the first place it Shakespeare. Watching Shakespeare is not a spectator sport you have to be engaged mentally and physically the entire time. Keeping up with the dialogue watching the subtle movements listening to the changes of tone. It’s the type of exertion that’s worth your effort though, it’s rewarding to go through the emotions the characters do. To reach the close when the lights go down.

Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, is a small black box theater but they can put on Shakespeare with the best of them.


Richard III runs Fridays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 7pm through June 16th.

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All photos credit: Zombie Joe

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