Theatre Review: Richard III

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You could say that King Richard is bad to the bone, but Shakespeare’s artful insult is so much richer. 

“That dog that had his teeth before his eyes, that foul defacer of God’s handiwork, that excellent grand tyrant of the earth....”

Actor Ian Bedford presents Richard with a shaved head, and a dangerously deceptive smile. After he proposes marriage to a widow, over the bloody body of her husband, Richard turns to the audience to gloat – and viewers are both repulsed and entertained.

“I’ll have her! I will not keep her long, but I that killed her husband and her father to take her, in her heart’s extremest hate…”

Audiences have long enjoyed a love/hate relationship with this charismatic anti-hero. And it’s hard to take your eyes off Bedford as Richard, whether he’s hiring a killer, or heading into battle.

(combat sound)

The actors handle the language well, and director Jan Powell escalates the tension as Richard murders his way to the top. The production is set in the 1400s, with medieval gowns, jewels and broadswords. There’s also a scene with a severed head, which isn’t for the faint of heart. But what makes the show compelling, and contemporary, is the grim portrait of a desperate nation, suffering under a tyrant who will not yield.

"Richard III" continues at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, along with "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Cambio," through August 17, 2008.