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Review Roundup: RICHARD III Opens at Free Shakespeare in the Park - What Did the Critics Think?

Review Roundup: RICHARD III Opens at Free Shakespeare in the Park - What Did the Critics Think?

Read all of the critics' reviews for Richard III!

The Public Theater celebrated opening night of Free Shakespeare in the Park production of RICHARD III at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park. The shows marks Robert O'Hara's Free Shakespeare in the Park debut and welcomes Danai Gurira back to The Delacorte after 11 years in the title role.

The complete cast of RICHARD III includes Maleni Chaitoo (Ensemble), Wyatt Cirbus (Prince of Wales), Thomas DellaMonica (Understudy Ensemble) , Sanjit De Silva (Buckingham), Sam Duncan (Duke of York), Thaddeus S. Fitzpatrick (Ensemble), Skyler Gallun (Ensemble), Danai Gurira (Richard III), Sarah Nina Hayon (Ensemble), Monique Holt (Duchess of York), Matthew August Jeffers (Ensemble), Matt Monaco (Ensemble), Gregg Mozgala (King Edward IV/Richmond), Joe Mucciolo (Ensemble), Paul Niebanck (George), Xavier Pacheco (Ensemble), Marcus Raye Pérez (Ensemble), Grace Porter (Ensemble), Michael Potts (Lord Stanley), Ariel Shafir (Lord Hastings), Heather Alicia Simms (Queen Elizabeth), N'yomi Stewart (Ensemble), Ali Stroker (Anne), Sharon Washington (Queen Margaret), and Daniel J. Watts (Catesby Ratcliffe).

Tony Award nominee Robert O'Hara (Slave Play, The Public's Barbecue) brings his sharp wit and story-telling genius to The Delacorte with a bold new production of RICHARD III. One of Shakespeare's most indelible villains, Richard is determined to be King. Following his lust for power and the throne, he manipulates, kidnaps, and kills all who stand between him and his throne, using brilliant words and dark charm to conceal his dismantling of government and justice. This masterful dive into the muddy middle between political genius and violent power grab will open Free Shakespeare in the Park's 60th Season with piercing relevancy and electrifying drama.

See what the critics are saying...

Jesse Green, The New York Times: But these coherently interpreted characters do not add up to a coherent interpretation of the play, which wobbles between shouty polemics and a kind of Tudor snark. It may be that "Richard III" is in that sense uninterpretable; written to flatter Shakespeare's royal sponsors, who were descendants of the victorious Richmond, its brilliance has always borne the sour odor of propaganda. That sourness is not sweetened by the fact that, to modern noses, the good guys smell a lot like the bad ones. If history plays cannot untangle for us what history itself leaves a jumble, they should at least help us figure out why.

Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post: Loosely directed by Robert O'Hara, "Richard III" is a bit like, well, a walk in the park: relaxing, slow, carefree, aimless. And, specific to the winding paths of Central Park where the Delacorte Theater is, awfully confusing. Our befuddlement begins straightaway and never lets up.

Daniel D'Addario, Variety: The casting of a Black woman as Richard extends throughout a production that is broadly inclusive, both making room for excellent performers and, at times, forging novel ways of telling the oft-told story. When the Duchess of York (Monique Holt) speaks, it's through sign language; Holt is a Deaf performer. Often, her words are spoken aloud by the Court Interpreter (Joe Mucciolo). But sometimes, as in the first part of a monologue condemning Richard, they are not, and hearing audience members must concentrate on the emotion in Holt's face, cleverly framed by a wimple of sorts. We are, and are not, left on the outside of her monumental grief. All of which adds welcome nuance and heft to a production that is in other moments daringly, almost subversively fun, up until the moment when the worm turns and all the talk gives way to total war.

Elysa Gardner, NY Sun: Yes, Ms. Gurira is female and Black, but neither of those factors should seem particularly surprising, given the exponential rate at which diversity in casting has picked up in recent years. What's most striking about this Richard is the extraordinary grace and poise. Investing the character with perfect posture and the powerful, fluid movements of a dancer, Ms. Gurira offers a sharp contrast to the "rudely stamp'd" hunchback that Shakespeare presented in a portrait marked by other historical inaccuracies, likely motivated by the politics of his day.

David Cote, The Observer: Actress Danai Gurira makes a juicy meal of the title role-a gender-blurring, chaotic-evil goblin poured into black leather-but she's surrounded by an uninspired ensemble in a production that lacks a strong concept or point of view-apart from addressing the ableism inherent in the material.

To read more reviews, click here!

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