Sunday, August 24, 2008

Merciless But Seductive


Before there was the Joker, there was Richard Crookback, Shakespeare’s charismatic Machiavellian prince. The Flatwater Shakespeare Company presents Richard III, featuring the Bard’s best-loved villain, in the open-air Swan Theatre at Wyuka Cemetery and Park, 3600 O Street in Lincoln, beginning Thursday, September 11, at 7:30 p.m.

Performances continue Friday through Sunday, September 12-14; and Thursday through Sunday, September 18-21 and 25-28. All show times are 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $18 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Call 473-2897 for reservations.

Flatwater’s Richard III presents Brad Boesen in the title role, Shakespeare’s fascinating study of the pursuit of power at all costs. Director and designer Bob Hall has set the production at the turn of the last century, stressing the play’s applicability to all times as it warns audiences about ends supposedly justifying means, about imprisonment and punishment as political weapons, and about the dangers of ignoring our shared humanity.

After generations of civil conflict, England looks forward to some peace and stability in the reign of Edward IV (Richard Sibley), leader of the Yorkist faction. But Edward’s youngest brother stays in the winter of his personal discontent while his family triumphs. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, wants to be king himself and will do anything to gain the crown and to consolidate his hold on it.

A strange thing happens during Richard’s campaign of deceit and murder. He confides in us, the audience – making us unwitting accomplices in his rise to power. Just as we are attracted to later villains, like Heath Ledger’s compelling Joker in the movie The Dark Knight, we are drawn toward Shakespeare’s merciless but seductive Richard.

Other voices compete with Richard’s charming arguments. We hear from Margaret (Juanita Pat Rice), widow of the king that Richard murdered. We hear from Anne (Sally Vandeberghe), widow of that king’s son, who is wooed by Richard for his own wife. We hear from Elizabeth (Mary Bolin), eventual of Richard’s brother. We hear from Richard’s own mother, the Duchess of York (Judith K. Hart), appalled by her son even before his brutal campaign. And in time we hear from Richard’s many victims – adversaries, allies, and kindred alike – who stood in his way.

Juanita Pat Rice makes her return to Lincoln theater after a long absence. Among several previous portrayals, she played Gertrude in a notable University of Nebraska-Lincoln production of Hamlet, directed by William R. Morgan and featuring one Bob Hall as Polonius.

Other performers in Richard III include Flatwater regulars Paden Alexander, Justin Baldinger, Rob Burt, Sam Colwell, George Hansen, and Dick Nielsen. Newcomers to the ensemble are Scott Herr, Chloe Kessler, Lindsey Peters, and Harper Wilmouth. Costumes are by Kat Cover, with fight choreography by Will Cover.

Flatwater Shakespeare is in its fourth year as a professional non-profit theatre company, bringing to Lincoln audiences the richness of the works of William Shakespeare as they were meant to be experienced – played out by a dynamic ensemble of performers on stage.

Again, call 473-2897 to reserve tickets.

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