Review of Scranton Shakes Production of Richard III, August 2019
by Timothy Patrick Brown, contributor
There is a certain amount of study it takes to go into a Shakespeare play. Richard III is one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays. It is not very historical - so I will approach it as a tragedy as it is most often classified.
Richard is the classic heroic villain, the anti-hero, a meme that has followed us today with tragic heroes like Tony Soprano and Walter White. The number of people they destroy in their wake is appalling but we can’t help watching them. He is an objectively evil person - but he revels in his role. He announces his intention at the very top of the play when he entreats us to follow his nefarious plan. You know what he is going to do and he will show you how he does it. You are his accomplice until he breaks you up as well. Richard is at first engaging but the more he commits egregious acts the more he retreats from the audience and quite frankly we retreat from him. In a late scene he even expresses remorse as he knows his punishment is eternal hell.
The second longest play in Shakespeare’s canon - it is right behind Hamlet in length. Rarely is it performed in full - with many references to other plays in Shakespeare’s early trilogy. However with expert editing this production is swift and clean - with a cast that revels in the language. The plot essentially follows the last War of the Roses with the murder of Richard.
I was very excited to see the stage production. As an acting coach I have taught Shakespeare scenes and acted in full productions of Julius Caesar, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. This production was clean and accessible with many fine ￼performances. Nicholas Hiatt is captivating as Richard - and he gets the humor, which is essential. I do so enjoyed his opening monologue - I was like okay “I will go there”. Max Fitzroy-Stone presented Buckingham - he is an accomplished actor with a marvelous stage presence. Tom Chandler, Daniel Holme, Olivia Rose Barresi, Natasha Nightengale all executed their roles beautifully. The ensemble supported wonderfully.
I saw four out of five Scranton Shakespeare productions - this is a gift - a tremendous gift - I wish there was more diversity in the casting in regards to age. It would help give depth to some of the characters but it’s a mild complaint.
Emma Rose Went handled the production with ease with the exception of some pacing problems in the second act.
All-in-all this was a well realized production that I enjoyed thoroughly.
As with most all Shakespeare plays - they are mired in misogyny - I suppose a sign of the times but I found it very distracting and upsetting - we can’t really rewrite his work but we can learn from it.