Richard III directed by James Jennings at the American Theatre of Actors
Review by Andre Vauthey
Well-mastered truthful simplicity is the best description of the last production by James Jennings of Richard III that I had the chance to see at the American Theater of Actors. That comes without much surprise for this veteran of Shakespeare and classical plays, whose 5th production of Richard III flows with ease from beginning till the end, three and half hours down the road.
Characters come on and off the stage at a good rhythm, keeping the ball flying without it ever touching the floor. The stage is really simple, with one small bench and two stools, and its mezzanine is well-used, allowing some additional perspectives in time and space, having the actors at times running from behind the audience. Especially at the end, when the battles is at its peak, the stage seems to be just a small
point of pause between the opposing sides before jumping back in the fight left and right from the audience.
James’ choices to have the characters wear up-to-date costumes feels very natural without being modernized, keeping the theme of the play very grounded. Most of the lords are in business suits,
Richard himself is in a leather jacket and the queens and the gentlewomen are in dresses that can pass for quite timeless. The only little critique I could add to this would be a wish that the actors, most of whom played lords in suits, would have embraced this even more fully.
The swords and the rest of the props stayed quite authentic to the play, adding a certain authenticity, which I highly appreciated.
The cast is well-mixed and as range of different techniques, which gives us a diverse flavor of lords and ladyships with a wide range of interpretations. The acting per/se is kept mostly very simple. No
over-acting here, which is of course very nice but maybe too safe.
In general, I believe this is my take on this piece: as much as I appreciate the well-maneuvered
production, its simplicity and its pursuit for truthfulness, I wonder if it was too safe and whether some risks or stronger choices could have been taken.
The role of Richard III is a challenge well-met by Alan Hasnas. The ease with the text and the stage from the start, to the different colors he brought to the character, made his performance enjoyable to watch. The only critique I could have here would be that I missed a certain a flavor of uncertainty and vulnerability from him as well as a better character arc from the beginning, to his fall into
In general, all the actors’ performances seem to follow the same line of honesty and ease with the text. An interesting performance to be noted, is that of Buckingham (played by Jake Minter), whose acting and physicality brought a nice energy to the stage.
Although no special sound or light effects can be noted here, real drums are used twice and their function and timing are perfect.
All together, I definitely enjoyed this production and am looking forward to future ones, perhaps even with a few more surprises and skips of the heart.