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BWW Reviews: Seattle Shakes RICHARD II Lacks Highs and Lows

David Foubert, Brandon J. Simmons,
Reginald Andre Jackson, and George Mount in
Photo credit: John Ulman.

I've never particularly been a fan of Shakespeare's histories. To me they amount to a lot of political posturing. But even with all the posturing they usually amount to a story with high stakes for all involved. Unfortunately the pacing and some performances from Seattle Shakespeare Company's current production of "Richard II" are so middle of the road and one note that the show lacked those high stakes and amounted to just so much of that posturing.

In the play Richard (George Mount) comes off as a very selfish king, not so interested in his subjects as to what he can get from them. So when his cousin, Bolingbroke (David Foubert) appears before him insisting that he act as judge over his accusations that Thomas Mowbray (Mike Dooly) has stolen money from the King and murdered their uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, Richard at first agrees and the two men enter into a duel. But Richard stops the duel and banishes the two men, Bolingbroke for six years and Mowbray forever. This action launches a series of events that will eventually lead to Richard's loss of the throne to Bolingbroke and his life as he angers the nobles by seizing the land of Bolingbroke's father, John of Gaunt (Dan Kremer), after his death.

Political machinations and alliances are aplenty throughout the story and so the stakes and intensity should be palpable but the pace of the show is so static that the intensity never quite arrives. Director Rosa Joshi seems to have the car of the play on cruise control so it never quite goes above 40 mph or below 35.

There are some interesting performances in the show. Foubert manages a quite engaging future king and gives a wonderful arc with his character. Dooly is also quite good as the accused Mowbray but once banished has little to do in his following supporting roles. Brenda Joyner as the Queen also has only a bit of stage time but takes each of her scenes on with aplomb. Kremer has some great moments as both John of Gaunt and later a gardener making him a joy to watch. And Peter A. Jacobs and Kate Wisniewski turn in some stirring performances as the Duke and Duchess of York as they take opposite opinions on their son's participation in a plot to overthrow Bolingbroke. But it's Mount who needs to drive the show and he keeps his performance right in line with the speed of Joshi's direction. There's so few levels or highs and lows from the character that it's very difficult to ascertain his intentions. He manages some lovely moments after he's deposed and broken but even they get a little lost in the mix as there's not much there from the previous incarnation of the King so there doesn't seem to be much of an arc when he's defeated.

When all is said and done it just amounts to a lackluster production that told a story but did it in an uninteresting, monotone way. As you may have seen in my previous reviews, with the new year comes new ideas and so I'm implementing a three letter rating system for my reviews. They range from good to bad with WOW (A can't miss), YAY (Too much fun), MEH+ (Good, with some great things going for it), MEH (Just OK), NAH (You can miss this one) and WTF (I think you can figure out my complex code there). And so for "Richard II" I'm left with giving this one a NAH.

"Richard II" from Seattle Shakespeare Company performs at the Center Theatre through February 2nd. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Shakes box office at 206-733-8222 or visit them online at

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From This Author Jay Irwin