“No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. But I know none, and therefore am no beast.”
― William Shakespeare, Richard III
There is no shortage of villains in the oeuvre of the writer known as William Shakespeare. From the machinations of Hamlet’s Uncle-cum-Father who puts Hamlet ‘too much in the Sun’, to the deviousness of Othello’s ‘trusted’ Iago, to the bloody, eye-plucking Cornwall in King Lear, but none are so ever quotable, and perhaps as eminently watchable as Richard III, who is of such expanse in his villainy that he is the star of his own self-titled play, rather than just a player in another character’s tale.
And this comes to life in florid detail in the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s unique production of RICHARD III. Directed by Ian Gallanar, one of the CSC’s founders, RICHARD III is presented in a ‘movable’ style that puts the audience, truly in the heart of the action and makes them mute(and not so mute) chorus to this tale of treachery and tragedy.
Taking place in the ‘haunted’ ruins at the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park in Ellicott City, Maryland, beneath the stars and the eyes of God, it is truly a presentation to remember. Particularly on a good, clear fall night (which we were blessed to see it on) with the wind picking up just a little, and showering Richard III with leaves, almost on queue, as he woos a man’s widow over his corpse. Ay, it’s a great thing, when the heavens provide your special effects.
And the whole play went thus, as a crowd of over 100, moved from picturesque room or steps or courtyard, moved from scene to scene, and watched actors of talent and temper… a tale unfold.
And before getting into the actors, a bit more on the setting.
Ellicott City is a 30 square mile area, more loose community than incorporated sub-division, that traces its history back to its founding as a Flour Mill back in 1772 by Quaker Brothers named Ellicott. Nestled in the Baltimore-Washington bosom, the area is rumored to, like Rome, be built on seven hills.
So this is no concrete jungle or ‘great white way’ for your theatrical experience, it is a beautiful and languid tree-lined drive, followed by a pretty spooky uphill walk to make the (typically) 8pm showing, that takes place in the Grecian tinged ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute.
So that is the stage, not New York, or Charlotte, or DC or LA, but the woodlands of Ellicott City; and the PFI Historic Park is a stage worth traveling to see.
Now for those who prance upon that stage.
While there are many strengths to an outdoor production, there are also obvious weaknesses. There are minor moments of congestion and confusion inherent in herding a hundred people to and fro, and that very act of going in and out of the ‘reality’ of the play, perhaps can limit how engrossed the viewer can get into the play.
However I think the immediacy of being ‘in’ the play, and viewing that closely the actors and interacting in their space, compensates for any loss of concentrated immersion in the piece.
However one other weakness of an outdoor production, is the sound. Without the acoustics and sound system of a real theater the actors have to project to be heard, particularly should the weather pick up. Some actors were better at doing this than others. Some actors needed to project better. And some actors were stellar.
The word stellar has to be kept close to the name Vince Eisenson who stars as the titular Richard the IIIrd. He has, as expected, to carry much of the play, much of the language, much of the energy. It is a ponderous role to undertake, and Eisenson manages not just to suffer the weight of the role, but to carry it as if he was born to it.
Part of this may have to do with his youth, but more than that Eisenson’s Richard is a far more vibrant and lively Richard, no less tortured than other actors who have portrayed the character, but there is a sophistication there, a deft touch to his portrayal, that eschews mustache twirling, that makes the character’s ability to charm and deceive, more believable here.
Also of note is the performance of Associate Director Scott Allan Small, as he makes the role of Buckingham, that I think can often come off as no more than a yes man, into one of the formidable figures of the play. He particularly just shines in the scene where he mixes with the audience as he ‘attempts’ to get Richard to accept the crown.
Also the scene where Buckingham draws the line at the slaying of children, and demands his due of Richard, I thought was just played beautifully between the two actors of Eisenson and Small. The physicality of how they played that role, with Buckingham played as the brick wall in that scene (like Marvel Comics’ Kingpin transplanted to Shakespeare), against Richard’s flowing water, that seeps into the brick… and breaks it all to pieces.
And the CSC performance is filled with such capable actors, among them Dave Gamble, Greg Burgess, and Jamie Jager in a passionate performance as Richmond. Another highlight scene is with Ron Heneghan delivering a very captivating performance as the imprisoned Clarence; it takes place in a fireplace dominated prison opposite equally entertaining performances by Bart Debicki as Brackenbury (the lieutenant of the tower) and the actors playing his assassins (Rebecca Dreyfuss and Jared Murray).
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable and recommended production, by a theater company I do not think you would be wrong, in calling world class. And this is typified by the fact that the last few performances of their RICHARD III (ending the weekend of this writing) are all sold out.
But don’t mourn too much, if moved by this review to sample the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in the future and will be visiting the East Coast, 2013 brings new CSC productions of Shakespeare’s classic plays, among them ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA and THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.
And If RICHARD III is a gauge, both shows will be much labored over in their construction, and much loved in their delivery.
Accolades go out to communications Director Sandra Maddox Barton for all her assistance, in making this review possible.
As I’m wont to do, I tend to keep abreast of the entertainment news, specifically film. One thing I’ve been hearing quite a lot in the wake of the Avengers film is talk of it making over a billion dollars. And I listen to the fervor and sense of ownership all these writers and pod-casters are going on with about this financial mark. And I have to ask ‘Why’?
I mean I enjoy the Avengers movie, as much as anyone, arguably more than most people will in 6 months. By that I mean it’s an interesting hive mind approach that occurs in popular films as well as other things, where people’s steadfast belief in whether a movie is good and bad fluctuates with the slightest derision or the popular opinion of the day.
AVENGERS was and is a great movie full stop. Pacing wise, action, wise, story wise. But now barely two weeks into its release you hear a few people say, “oh well the first half was slow”, and people I heard broadcast not even a week ago how great the film was, begin to backpedal and parrot “Oh well the beginning was a little slow”. We live in a monopolized society where the individual is so scared to have an unpopular opinion, to the point that a lot of their opinions generally are not worth the breath they take to say it, or the paper they take to write it.
They have the spineless nature of slugs.
Same change of opinion (but to both a lesser and greater degree) happened to the Bryan Singer film SUPERMAN RETURNS. First week, people came out raving and loving that film. The Airplane scene, the bullet to the eye. It was a solid very good movie. But less than a week later, people began picking up the mantra of ‘why’s the kid there’ and ‘lex again’ and ‘Lois’. And you could see the ship of public opinion so to speak, turn. And people who initially were overjoyed about the film, started backpedaling, “Well, yeah I didn’t really say it was good.”. Until now a few years later people routinely call that movie awful and one of the worst.
It’s something I’ve noticed, Something that is not just American, because I’ve listened to enough British pod-casters do the same thing. So many are seemingly so afraid to hold an opinion derided or frowned upon or be seen cherishing something not embraced by their ‘friends’ or even their ‘enemies’.
It’s a lack of conviction, to anything you believe. Obvious symptoms of a propagandized population, so used to embracing any lie, that will keep it from having to alone, look at uncomfortable truths.
So yeah, when I say I enjoy the AVENGERS more than most people will in 6 months, that’s not me having you on, it’s just a fact. I’m not swayed by the mob.
I thought SUPERMAN RETURNS was a fun, solid B movie when I first saw it, and I still think so. I think AVENGERS is a brilliant, surprisingly so, Grade A movie today, and will think the same thing 5 years from today, when most of you have been pushed far afield of any opinion you may have had on the film.
I mean there’s nothing wrong with changing your opinion, if it’s your change, your growth, your adaptation. But that’s not what’s happening. What’s happening is a propagandized population taught by the media to have no constants, no ideals, no values, that will not be torn down; have learned to make their opinions on shifting sands, always ready to be remade at the slightest rise of the tide.
Which brings us back to the original concern. Why are you celebrating or in any manner cheering the AVENGERS making over a Billion dollars?
Beyond just financial interest, I could care less if the movie breaks even, does 400 million, or does a billion. Honestly I don’t really have a stake in it if it loses money.
Of course liking the film, it’s nice if it doesn’t bomb, for the simple fact it would be nice to see more films by a competent director like Joss Whedon.
But none of that is the case. I don’t personally know a single person who is in any way going to profit, by making a monopolized studio and theatrical system a billion dollars richer. All this did is take a billion dollars from a lot of little pockets, and put it into a very few big pockets.
Now I’m not making a deal on that. I went to see the movie like everyone else, but you can be damn sure I’m not celebrating this state of affairs either.
AVENGERS makes a billion dollars, okay. I accept it as a fact. But honestly, until such time as those funds and profits get distributed to real theaters and real people (a billion dollars, hell you can afford to hire real projectionists, pay the ushers, and ticket takers a real wage, get real popcorn and healthy drinks, etc, etc…but you’ll drop dead waiting for that money to trickle down. In fact all the studios can talk about is reducing costs at the local level and maximizing profits by digitizing everything), I have no interest in celebrating billionaires becoming bigger billionaires.
Beyond a movie breaking even to keep a good director or actor I like viable, that’s where my interest in what a film makes or does not make… ends. Some people were complaining because TRANSFORMERS:DARK OF THE MOON was a box office success. Who cares? I personally don’t get the Michael Bay hate, but as we’ve established I don’t follow the crowd.
Michael Bay is a talented director who puts bodies in seats. Some films of his I like, some I don’t. I loved his first film BAD BOYS, and loved his last film DARK OF THE MOON (which the end of the AVENGERS was more than a little like) and in-between like any other director he has been hit and miss. But even the movies I don’t like I don’t wish them ill at the box-office. What sense does that make?
If you don’t like a movie, does that mean everyone has to wish it ill and hate it as well? Does that mean you have to begrudge it its success?
I personally hated Nolan’s first Batman movie, and thought his DARK KNIGHT while better, was still flawed and over-hyped. So not really a Nolan fan, but I don’t begrudge his films their success. As stated, what Billionaires do or don’t make.. not concerned.
When some of that tremendous profit begins cycling back into the communities, well then that will be something to feel pride and ownership of.
It was somewhere between 2am and 4am in the morning. If I had to guess I’d split the difference and say 3. I have a pretty good internal clock, so I’d reckon my guess was pretty close. I can tell my body when to get up, and it gets up.
So anyhow it’s 3ish in the morning and I find myself in my bathroom, in the top floor of my house, in the dark, urinating.
I toyed with saying ‘taking a leak’ but that always struck me as an inane and artless expression.
Though it can be argued how much art is involved in relieving yourself. Though I have been known to draw figure 8s in the water, but that may fall under the heading too much information.
But anyhow I’m in my house, alone, in the upstairs, in the bathroom, in the dark, urinating.
Now to explain the “in the dark” part, it may just be me, but in the middle of the night, when the call of nature is upon me, I like to fancy myself capable of having sufficient night vision to make it across the hall to the bathroom, do my business, wash my hands and make it back to bed, all sans light.
Bright light blazing in your eyes I find not being conducive to quickly returning to sleep.
So it’s 3am, I’m in my house, in the dark, in the bathroom, relieving myself, when the thought comes to me.
Why isn’t there an entrance to an attic in this house?
It’s odd isn’t it that you can live in a house for years, with a crack in some corner of the wall, that you manage somehow to see and not see. Always promising yourself to get to, and never really getting to.
For some reason, in the night, in the dark, in my bathroom… I saw the absence of an attic, really saw it.
The question had come up earlier over at my sister’s house, We had somehow got around to discussing attics, probably while talking about storage space, and I mentioned I didn’t have one, there was no entrance anywhere to an attic or crawl space. But the more I thought about it the more odd it seemed.
I had thought, finally, about there at least being some kind of storage space up there. So why no entrance? But surely attic-less houses are common? There’s no mystery. Some houses have attics, and some just have insulation. Not exactly news. Why the hell was I obsessing about a phantom attic?
And just as I thought that and was shaking and wiping in the dark, preparing to shake it off as one of those twilight fancies, and wash my hands, and head to bed,…above my head, clearly and deliberately, with extreme patience… I heard someone take a single step.
Copyright 2012 HT
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