Tragically, there are people who’ve looked into the eyes of pure evil—some long ago in faraway places, others closer to home in our own day and age.
I don’t count myself among them, but after seeing Southwest Shakespeare Company perform “Richard III” Friday night, I’ve seen evil personified with uncanny clarity.
“Richard III” is nothing short of masterful, and warrants a much longer run. But alas—the final two performances are at 2pm and 7:30pm today at Mesa Arts Center.
You should never merely read Shakespeare, according to Maren Maclean (Queen Margaret)—who also happens to be teacher and mentor to my youngest daughter, Lizabeth. Instead, says Maclean, Shakespeare’s works are meant to be performed.
Simply reading Shakespeare’s “Richard III” might have left me ambivalent about the moral bankruptcy of its title character, but seeing Bo Foxworth perform the role made it glisten like a perfectly polished dagger in the moonlight.
I’ve seen other actors portray characters devoid of all human decency—including Anthony Hopkins as “Dr. Hannibal Lecter” in “The Silence of the Lambs” and Heath Ledger as “The Joker” in “The Dark Knight.”
But sitting in the audience of an intimate theater as Foxworth’s Richard III gleefully and glibly orchestrates the demoralization or death of everyone around him offers a visceral experience of evil that’s unmatched.
There’s no blood and gore, though you will see a head wrapped up for delivery to Richard III. Two young princes are murdered at Richard III’s behest, but we see only their tender limp bodies as they’re gently laid into a shared coffin.
There’s an elaborate fight scene near the end of the piece which is brilliantly executed with gusto and grace. The scenic design is clean, simple and mostly symmetrical throughout. The lighting is powerful yet perfectly poised.
The subject matter may be dark, but it’s far from morose. Artistic director Jared Sakren, who joined the cast for a “talk back” with audience members after Friday evening’s performance, described the work as “dark but funny.”
Throughout the performance, audience members reacted with a mixture of gasps and giggles. “Shakespeare wrote a lot of comedy into it,” observed Sakren.
You know, I think I’m starting to warm up to this Shakespeare guy.
The cast is superb—from the youngest actors (ages 11, 12 and 15) to those with extensive Shakespeare training and stage experience. Read their bios when you take in the show—you’ll discover some fascinating and intriguing folk.
In closing, let me leave you with a couple of audience member reflections shared with cast members during the talkback…
One gentleman described the comic twist to Richard III’s character as “just delicious”—and “perfectly balanced” with the evil he exuded.
Note: “Shakespeare at the Biltmore”–presented by the Arizona Biltmore and the Southwest Shakespeare Company–will take place June 3-5 and 10-12 as part of the Arizona Biltmore “Hollywood & Wine” series which runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Tickets are $30 person or $50 for a “festival ticket” to enjoy both Southwest Shakespeare Company productions. Info and tickets at 800-950-0086 (ask for the concierge desk) or www.arizonabiltmore.com.
Coming up: Update featuring books on Shakespeare recommended by “Richard III” cast members, Enjoying outdoor arts and entertainment (I’m hitting the Scottsdale Center for the Arts with Jennifer tonight to enjoy Solas & Bearfoot under the stars)