This is an aesthetically wonderful production. Splendid punk-meets-Elizabethan Costume by Francis O’Connor (excepting Richard’s striped lame, Las Vegas robe) and spare set with windows that welcome atmospheric lighting is creative and fresh (James F. Ingalls). A dirt floor balances the suspended Lucite-encased skull=history. Battlefield tents are imaginatively constructed with neon tepee rods.
Alas, the play itself only intermittently comes to life. While partly due to lack of dramatic arc, Director Garry Hynes has compounded text issues with sameness of character presentation and method of successive execution: a captive bolt pistol used to stun livestock. Blam! And the victim (who appears willingly lead to slaughter) is rolled into an open grave. Almost no one is distinctively drawn, leaving us unsympathetic.
Hynes stages well. There are excellent moments: Anne’s trudging from the wings pulling the body of her murdered husband on the gown’s long, long train; Richard’s faking piety bookended by two scarecrow priests; ghosts of the two dead, young princes, haunting the battlefield, singing. Pacing is fine, though the play is overlong.
Siobhan Cullen’s Lady Ann is sequentially fiery, anguished, and numb. Elizabeth’s (Jane Brennan) Act II confrontation of Richard brings out the best in both actors, she embodying the Queen’s brutalized strength, he, Richard’s obtuse, wheedling ambition. Ingrid Craigie’s Dutchess of York is notable after the princes are murdered. There’s a brief scene when two assassins successfully channel Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Men are otherwise interchangeable.
As Richard, Aaron Monaghan spends the first act emitting exaggerated sing-song, distinctly not in service of meaning. He whines, yelps, yowls, and cuts phrases seemingly without intention to communicate. Though movement is evocative, the character is irritating rather than chilling. A cartoon. This improves in Act II, due both to Richard’s impatience with posturing and the need to express on-stage anger, which is difficult to project with earlier trappings. Spinning out of control, he achieves footing.
Photos by Richard Termine
Opening: Aaron Monaghan
Lincoln’s Center’s White Light Festival presents
US Production Premiere
Druid Shakespeare: Richard III
Directed by Garry Hynes
Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College
524 West 59th Street
Through November 23, 2019 http://www.lincolncenter.org/white-light-festival/show/druidshakespeare-richard-iii