Like the following appellation, SUDS’s Zach Beavon-Collin’s William Shakespeare’s Richard is too long. It takes a significantly edited-down Richard III (don’t wait up for the horse bit), and inserts the final part of Henry VI, Part III. As explained in the program notes, the intent is to give necessary background on the history and politics of the play, and to explain how Richard (Saro Lusty-Cavallari) has come to be what he is in Dick III proper.
This is a mixed success – the second act is relatively smooth and engaging, allowing some of the other characters to exist as more than obstacles to Richard; Queen Margaret (Lucinda Howes) was well-served by the inclusion of her earlier position of tenuous power, filling out and balancing the damaged and vengeful Margaret of the final act. However, this highlights some of the first act’s shortcomings.
The incredible pace of the dialogue is striking, which compromises both meaning and emotion. One could take in the general sense and intention of the lines, but the intricate wit and rapidly unfolding thought processes – of Richard especially – were dulled into blocks of text serving a purely narrative function. There is so much in the text – as was apparent from the length and pace of dialogue – which was not made sensible to the audience. The time spent showing, and indeed rehearsing, a whole act of Henry VI as background could perhaps have been better spent on developing and communicating the text of Richard III as a way to understand the character.
Lusty-Cavallari’s Richard has a good physical presence, informed by but not overplaying his (contrived) physical disability. His delivery suffers from the same rushing common to much of the production; thus he loses the charm necessary for Richard’s seduction and manipulation. In his later scenes, which tend to be taken slower, we can see his intelligence at work better; but he lets both determination and hurt transform too easily to rage. This general heightened emotion means the raw, malevolent Richard of the first act is too similar to the frustrated, pleading Richard, whom this production has mocked by Queen Elizabeth (Henriette Tkalec, in a strong performance).
The staging is competent, with occasionally staid blocking. A curtain separating up- and downstage is used well, though occasionally hampered by technical fumbles. The walls and furniture are starker than the often-striking costumes, to no specific effect.
The play’s focus is on Richard and what he has to say, to both us and the characters around him. The intelligence of Richard and Shakespeare have to come through the performers to us, line by line – too much of that was lost for us to feel for or wonder at the characters, even with the deeper understanding of loyalties and relationships offered to us.