Judith Shakespeare Company
By WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
TADA Theatre, June 5 – 26, 2004
Director/Dramaturg Joanne Zipay
Set Designer Jason Ardizzone-West
Lighting Designer Colin D. Young
Costume Designer Lea Umberger
Production Stage Manager Lis Macaulay
Composer/Electric Guitar Mike Clemente
Fight Director Dan O’Driscoll
Press Representation Sam Rudy, Shirley Herz Associates
Laurie Bannister-Colón • Bruce Barton • Zack Calhoon
Chris Cantrell • Jovinna Chan • Gail Cronauer
Ivanna Cullinan • Emma Devine-Warman
Lindsey Harrison • Mary E. Hodges • David Huber
Assiatou Lea • Dunaugh MacSweeney • Marcia Montané
Jan-Peter Pedross • Vanessa Shealy • Jane Titus
Alison White • Eric Emmanuel Wilson • Raymond Wortel
The inspired Judith Shakespeare Company is completing their eight play, three season "Shakespeare Unplugged" History Cycle with a rock and roll, sex and drugs, decadent interpretation of RICHARD 3. As with all of the Unplugged productions, a woman has been cast in the title role. This time, the rest of the casting is gender-blind. Be certain, however, that this is no trendy girl power outing. This is Shakespeare for the masses!
Joanne Zipay directs this RICHARD 3 with the quick pace that befits the overall style of her vision. Scene changes are swift and painless, and we find that we are never waiting for action. It is constant. The play is accompanied by live guitar performed by Mike Clemente, and this element only adds to the desired tone, and the sense of seamless and continuous activity. With a look that is updated to suggest the industrial, backstage area of a stadium rock show, including a set comprised of a series of risers, ambient smoke, moody lighting, and a cast that is clad, primarily, in either long-hair rocker rags or slick rap/hip hop attire, this RICHARD 3 is intended to be user-friendly, modern and loud.
The design is great, but then there is the acting, which is right on par. Gail Cronauer, as the title character, RICHARD 3, is lurching and menacing and completely unsympathetic. Then, the fact is that what William Shakespeare created with this play was a work devoid of likable people. Truly, there is no one to root for, only the lesser evils to side with. Luckily, director Zipay was heartily aware of this reality when she created the particular universe that this RICHARD 3 would exist within. Richard, the man who would have his own nephews murdered to further is political ambitions leads the pack as the most insidious of the disliked, and performer Cronauer appears to be delighting in the opportunity to portray one of the truly bad men of the stage. Keeping her in good company, Jane Titus is captivating as the grieving and vindictive Queen Margaret. Dressed as a latter-day Janis Joplin (though swilling Jack Daniels rather than Southern Comfort), Titus plays her queen as the rock and roll royalty she is. Then we have Mary E. Hodges, in various roles, who most notably turns in a rap-urban performance as Richard’s rival, Richmond. The rest of the cast, variably pot-head assassins, club-kid-like court members, decadent reporters and manipulative politicos, complete the rebellious, violent picture.
I suspect that an audience unfamiliar with RICHARD 3 will not genuinely appreciate the numerous political machinations that the plot involves, but director Joanne Zipay has infused her adaptation with so much energy and just enough modern sensibility to make the average attendee enjoy the production nonetheless. I enjoyed taking this trip with Judith Shakespeare Company. I suspect you will as well.
- Kessa De Santis -