Theatricum Botanicum Presents Richard III, Closes 10/2

Charismatic and contemptible, Richard III pursues his lust for power no matter who stands in his way. Melora Marshall and Chad Jason Scheppner alternate as the thrilling schemer audiences love to hate in William Shakespeare's Richard III, closing October 2 at the outdoor Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga.

Daunted by a life of physical challenges and consumed by ambition, Richard weaves a fiery web of intrigue, removing all obstacles-and all people-in his way, as he ascends to the throne of England. Using any "subtle, false and treacherous" stratagem necessary, he manipulates, marries and murders his way to the top with unmatched charm and zeal. Widely considered one of Shakespeare's greatest plays, the complex character of Richard-a villain protagonist-accounts for the tragedy's perennial popularity. Dominating the action, he appears in fourteen of the twenty-five scenes with ten soliloquies entreating the audience to root for him even though his monstrous schemes are despised.

Following last season's successful double-casting of Hamlet, this production of Richard III finds longtime Theatricum members Melora Marshall and Chad Jason Scheppner sharing the title role. When not playing Richard, Marshall also alternates as the Duchess of York, mother to Richard and the brothers he plots to overthrow.

Asked why she chose to split the role of Richard between a female and male actor, director Ellen Geer explains, "We auditioned throughout the company, and Melora and Chad were the two who were able to create the spell. Richard needs to entrance the audience, to win them over as he makes his Machiavellian plans, and when these two actors read, it was immediately obvious to everybody that they were right for the part. It's as simple as that."

Also in the cast of Richard III are Abby Craden as Queen Elizabeth; Thad Geer as George Duke of Clarence/Lord Mayor; Willow Geer as Lady Anne; Tim Halligan as Lord Hastings; William Dennis Hunt as King Edward IV and Cardinal Bourchier; Christopher W. Jones as Duke of Buckingham; Cindy Kania-Guastaferro and Melora Marshall alternating as the Duchess of York; and Earnestine Phillips as Queen Margaret. Rounding out the ensemble are Claire Andrew, Lily Andrew, Michael Aurelio, Jenny Blair, Cass Briskman, Kevin M. Connolly, MollyAnn Davis, Cameron Daxon, Judy Durkin, Emily Ervolina, Michael Shaw Fisher, Ed Giron, Zak Handler, Steve Hu, Leo Knudson, Shali Mals, Dianne Manaster, Adele Olender, Christopher Parker, Andrew Ravani, William Reinbold, Zachary Sandberg, Maurice Shaw, Colin Simon, Robert Swain, Tyler Tanner, Kabin Thomas, Dylan Booth Vigus and Owen Walton.

Well known for its lovingly executed productions of Shakespeare, modern classics, and world premiere adaptations of classic plays and novels in a spectacular, outdoor setting, Theatricum's 2011 Summer Repertory Season of six plays also includes The Merry Wives of Windsor and A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare; Tartuffe by Molière; the West Coast premiere of Bill Bozzone's Off Broadway hit comedy, Rose Cottages; and a special five-night performance of the controversial one-woman play My Name is Rachel Corrie. Unlike most theaters in the Los Angeles area that stage continuous runs of a single play, the Theatricum, using a company of actors, performs each play on a rotating basis so that it's possible to see all six plays in a single summer weekend. In addition, Theatricum offers a variety of satellite programming including Under the Oaks, a Thursday night salon series featuring comedy improv, cabaret and poetry; a Labor Day "Tribute to Burt Bacharach and Hal David" by Inara George and Friends; Family Fundays interactive plays and concerts for kids on Saturday and Sunday mornings; Botanicum Seedlings: A Development Series for Playwrights featuring free readings of new plays on select Sundays; and theme dinners in the idyllic Theatricum gardens.

The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley. For tickets and information, call (310) 455-3723 or visit online at www.theatricum.com.

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