Tag Archives: Blithe Spirit

Richard III: Magnificent Malevolence

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.

If you’re a Shakespeare devotee, you have to see it. If you’re a Shakespeare novice, you have to see it. If you’re breathing, you have to see it. It’s that good.

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.

Another imagined himself a judge on a TV reality show competition. “If I was Len on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ I’d say this was your best dance ever.”


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)


Broadway, beads, ballet and brass

Bring a bit of the arts into your weekend with one or more of these events featuring dance, music, theater or the visual arts…

Dance performance

Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez.

Ballet Folklorico de Mexico de Amalia Hernandez. March 20 at Mesa Arts Center (Ikeda Theater). mesaartscenter.com.

Essential Martha Graham: Classics of the Martha Graham Dance Company. March 19 and 20 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. scottsdaleperformingarts.org.

Music performance

Salt River Brass Concert: Way Out West. March 21 at Mesa Arts Center (Ikeda Theater). mesaartscenter.org.

Children from "HopeKids" pose with the cast of "Cats" at the Arizona Broadway Theatre after attending a special evening performance.

Theater performance

“Blithe Spirit” presented by Southwest Shakespeare Company through March 20 at Mesa Arts Center (Farnsworth Studio). A comedic work by playwright Noel Coward in which a writer researching a novel about the paranormal accidentally conjures the spirit of his biggest fan (his first wife). mesaartscenter.org.

“Cats” presented by Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria. 1983 ‘best musical’ Tony Award winner with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Visit azbroadwaytheatre.com for details, including menu information.

“George M” presented by Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Mesa. Patriotic musical about an early American show business superstar. broadwaypalmwest.com for details, including menu information.

“The Hobbit” presented by Valley Youth Theatre. Opens today at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. Play version of the classic tale featuring Bilbo’s quest for a treasure needed to save all the Hobbits of Middle Earth. vyt.com.

“The Immigrant: A Hamilton County Album” presented by Arizona Jewish Theatre Company through March 21 at Paradise Valley Community College Center for the Performing Arts. A true story by playwright Mark Harelik that recounts the 1909 immigration of two Eastern European Jews to a small Texas town through a resettlement program called the “Galveston Movement.” azjewishtheatre.org.

“Johnny Guitar” presented by Theater Works through March 28 at Peoria Center for the Performing Arts. Family-friendly musical with Old West theme. theaterworks.org.

“The Princess and the Pea” presented by the Children’s Theatre at Hale Centre Theatre through June 26 at Hale Center Theatre in Gilbert. The classic fairy tale in which a prince uses unusual means to find his one true princess. haletheatrearizona.com.

“Secret Order” presented by Actors Theatre through March 21 at Herberger Theater Center (Stage West) in Phoenix. A “suspenseful bio-medical psychological thriller” from Playwright Bob Clyman that considers this question: “What if you discovered the cure for cancer?” herbergertheater.org.

“Sweet Charity” presented by Tempe Little Theatre. Opens today at Tempe Center for the Arts. Musical comedy with book by Neil Simon that follows the adventures of a nightclub dancer who thinks she’s met her Mr. Right. tempe.gov/TCA.

“You Don’t Have to Take It!” presented by Fountain Hills Community Theater Youth Theater opens today. fountainhillstheater.com.

Kellie Agee. Photo by Daniel Friedman.

Arts-related Fundraisers

“Bead Inspired” fundraiser presented by Bead Inspired, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to empowering the quality of life of children coping with cancer and other serious illness” that works with more than 60 children’s hospitals nationwide (including Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Cardon Children’s Medical Center). 10am-4pm March 20 at Mesa Center for the Performing Arts (Wells Fargo Garden). Features live music, glass bead making, Phoenix Coyotes mascot, traditional Pow Wow dancers and more. Free. mesaartscenter.org.

(From the RAK Library: Read Daniel Friedman’s story about Kellie Agee, whose beads symbolize her fight against leukemia.)

“Broadway in the Hills” fundraiser presented by Fountain Hills Community Theater March 20 at the Radisson Resort at Ft. McDowell in Scottsdale/Fountain Hills. Features dinner, live entertainment and live/silent auctions. fhct.org.

More family fun

Look for weekend updates “Stage Mom” style every Friday. We’ll feature arts-related events—especially those that are family-friendly. Always check ahead to assure the suitability of material for your child or teen, and to verify event details (date, time, venue, cost, etc.).

Check our online calendar at raisingarizonakids.com each day to find fun, family-friendly activities from story times and puppet shows to craft lessons and outdoor adventures. Please check online for guidelines and information about how to submit calendar information for consideration.

If you’re presenting an arts performance or experience that you’d like to see featured in an upcoming “Stage Mom” weekend update, please drop me a line at rakstagemom@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from diverse arts organizations, local schools and colleges, and others offering unique family-friendly fare.