BWW Review: RICHARD III by Lit Moon Theatre Company
In similar fashion to Lit Moon's production of Hamlet, director John Blondell's recent production of Richard III was an extremely stylized, reorganized vision of Shakespeare's work. The text has been boiled down to bare essentials for conveying narrative, and selectively replaced by physical representation--making Blondell's surreal version of Richard III as twisted as the leading villain (played by Marie Ponce). Described by Blondell as a Dream Play, the status-quo connective tissue of a traditional cause-and-effect narrative is only minimally grounded in recognizable reality. Like the balloons tied to shoes that are used as set dressing, Richard III floated languidly, secured to the audience's reality by a string. Beyond a dream-world narrative structure, the actors, too, moved as though existing in a nightmare, free of the burden of socially expected responses to stimuli. It was as though Ponce took a valium and a shot of whiskey, fell asleep during a rehearsal for a more conventional performance of Richard III, dreamt she was the title character, and drifted through a story that comes in and out of focus as Shakespeare's play. Richard hypnotically usurps the throne against the forces of the Yorks and Lancasters, played by Paige Tautz, Victoria Finlayson, and Nina Salinen in a waltz of intrigue and battle.
The effect is a strangely appealing (albeit disjointed and inaccessible--especially for those without a thorough grasp of Richard III) vision of the play that tends toward a performance-art installation than overtly representational theatre. The soft-spoken, otherworldly approach to character, and the striking live music by Jim Connelly, create a performance piece that is beautifully rendered--if not somewhat mystifying. Specific and undeniably intense performances were given by the four actresses, but the narrative is loose enough to leave some audience members lost in the dreamworld. Lit Moon's Richard III captured Shakespeare's play in dark metaphor; yet dressed in such a heavy cloak of free association, it certainly flirts with being unrecognizable.