Reviewed by Raphael Badagliacca
Ambitious, intelligent, unafraid, obsessed, no stranger to cunning, undaunted by obstacles, possessed by a talent for reading others… what does it take to play the part of Richard III? And by what factor must we ratchet up each of these character traits in a woman who would take on the challenge of this role? Ask Katie Mack who gives us a brilliant, treacherous Richard in an all-female production of Shakespeare’s second longest play after Hamlet.
We know from history that male actors played the female parts in Elizabethan England, and that those female characters are fewer and less nuanced than most of their male counterparts. An all-female cast is Nana Dakin‘s directorial commentary on this history. She adds that directing the play gave her greater appreciation of Richard as underdog, curiously coinciding with the underdog position of female characters and actors in the Shakespearean world.
Fifteen women dressed in white embody more than twice that number of roles on a stage that resembles a handball court crossed by flexible bands of cloth that come into play at different stages. They fight battle scenes, wrestling foes to the ground – how unladylike – and fiercely conduct, dressed in finery, the equally contentious conversations at the heart of the play.
Each member of the cast plays several parts, except Katie Mack’s Richard – body bent, gait twisted, but mind craftily clear until the cataclysmic end when the kingdom is famously lost for the lack of a horse. This distinction increases our feeling of Richard’s aloneness, putting him even more at the center of the play, sharing the intimacy of his grand, manipulative plans. Throughout, Mack does something with her voice that weirdly expresses at once, Richard’s deformity and his passion.
An undertaking like this forces us to reflect on the roles we play. The argument against the stereotyping of groups of any kind is that there are more variations within a group than from group to group. Can Richard played by a woman still out-Iago Iago or be as scheming as Lady Macbeth – wait a minute – there’s cold comfort – maybe we are more alike than we think.
by William Shakespeare; directed by Nana Dakin
with Brie Archer, Anya Banerjee, Tessa Barlow-Ochshorn, Hannah Benjamin, Elizabeth Chappel, Britta Kuhn, Katie Mack*, Maya Martin-Udry, Rita McCann, Zainab Musa*, Adaku Okpi, Alice Renier*, Briana Sakamoto*, Kea Trevett*, Phoebe Wright * Appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association
Dramaturgs: Lucy Powis and Annie Wang, Producer: Paloma Estévez, PSM: Megan Webb, ASMs: Ada Zhang and Dennis Ho, Company Manager: Ikumi Kuronaga, Scenic Designer: Santiago Orjuela Laverde, Costume Designer: Emily White, Lighting Designer: Elizabeth Mak, Sound Designer: Pornchanok Kanchanabanca, Fight Choreographer: Ellen Bryan, Graphic Designer: Anchuli Felicia King
March 28 7:30 PM; March 29 7:30 PM; March 30 7:30 PM; March 31 2:00 PM ; March 31 7:30 PM Tickets: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/983868
LOCATION: Flexible Performance Space; Lenfest Center for the Arts; 615 West 129th St.; New York, NY 10027