Monday, April 4, 2016

Review of The Gift Theatre's Richard III at The Steppenwolf Garage

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Richard III. It was by William Shakespeare and it was directed by Jessica Thebus. It was about this man Richard (Michael Patrick Thornton) who was trying to kill and marry his way to being the king. He was not a good person, but he is pretty good at strategizing. And it is about people trying to thwart his plans and him trying to get what he wants. The only thing he fears is death. It is about determination, expectations, power, and ruthlessness. I thought this was a really cool show because the man who played Richard actually couldn't walk without machines and I felt like that added a lot to the story because you got to see what it was like to have a disability and not just an actor pretend to have a disability. And Richard actually has a disability, so that was appropriate. I felt like it was very interesting and I hadn't heard of a Richard III that had done this before.

I felt like Thornton was a very believable actor. I never felt like I could relate to Richard's kind of character before, or understand where he was coming from. But I felt like I really did in this show because of how he did his direct address. He did it sincerely and you could kind of understand where he was coming from. I didn't like the character's choices, but I did understand him. Most of the time he didn't seem very Shakespearean; he seemed very modern. If you didn't know that this was by Shakespeare, you might think it was written more recently, which I think is really cool. Thornton is using Shakespeare's language, but he speaks it as if that is how he spoke every day. The ghost scene at the end was the only time I felt disconnected from Richard. It is possible that that is what they were going for because it is a really weird scene. Richard is tired and seemed slightly more typically Shakespearean and there is paranormal activity, so that makes it a lot harder to believe. But overall I really did like the performance.

Margaret (Shanésia Davis) I think was the most sympathetic character in the show. She had gone crazy because of the death of her husband Henry VI. And she was also really cool because she could curse people. I liked that because she was kind of like a witch but not exactly because she did it for a good reason. This is the first witch I have seen in a Shakespeare play who was not evil. At first she is not very powerful; she has been banished. But then she starts cursing people and then eventually people start taking her seriously. I think that it is good to have a powerful woman character in the show because most of the powerful people are men. I'm not saying it is a feminist play at all, but it is good to have some female character that has some kind of power in a show that was written that long ago.

I thought the way that Richard got women was not a good way to do that task. He sees Anne and he says, "Oh, she'll get me closer to being king," and then he marries her and then when he feels like her job is done he'll have her murdered and pretend to be sad about it. And then he tries to do the same thing with Elizabeth's daughter after he has killed Elizabeth's other children. I feel like this is not the nicest way to get girls, especially because by that time Anne kind of knows that he is not a very good person, but she goes with him because she is vulnerable. It shows you that in this world, women are very vulnerable and don't exactly don't get to think about what is best for themselves. Margaret, however, finds a way: go crazy and be banished. But I don't think every woman should have to do that!

I thought that Young York (Brittany Burch) and Young Edward (Hannah Toriumi) might have been more believable and more sympathetic if they were portrayed by actual young boys. I think a lot of companies are scared to work with kids because they think they will be little monsters all the time and won't be productive. But by the experience I have had in theater with kids, if you get the right ones and in the audition make sure they understand direction and will be good to work with, then I think you can avoid making women pretend to be young boys, which can make the characters seem less realistic. I think I am the person who is most sensitive to this kind of casting because I'm a kid. A lot of people probably it didn't bother them.

People who would like this show are people who like murderous courtship strategies, believable villains, and crazy banished witches. I think that people should go see this show. I feel like it was a really cool, awesome, and new version of Richard III. I thought it was fun and afterwards I am still thinking a lot about it.

Photos: Claire Demos

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