Sacred Fools brings to the stage Sir Richard of Gloucester's unwavering quest to wrest the royal throne from its rightful heirs. Just how far will Richard go and what horrors will he visit on his land and family in the obsessive quest for the crown? Ben Rock, director of Baal - which was named as one of L.A. Weekly head critic Steven Leigh Morris' "Favorite Things" in L.A. theater for 2010 - now focuses on Shakespeare's dark masterpiece tale of sin and corruption... twisted, hacked, and reborn for 2012.
Read THE ACCIDENTAL SHAKESPEARIAN, in which director Ben Rock - also an accomplished filmmaker - blogs about why he directs theater.
"...an absorbing presentation with riveting performances from the uniformly excellent cast... fools or not, the people in this company know how to put on a great show." -ReviewPlays.com
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Gregory Sims as Duke of Gloucester / King Richard III Leon Russom as Duke of Buckingham Eric Giancoli as Lord Hastings Donal Thoms-Cappello as Sir William Catesby Buck Zachary as Lord Stanley Daniel Flapper as Sir James Tyrell / Murderer 1 / Surrey Cynthia Beckert as Duchess of York Cameron Cash as Henry, Earl of Richmond / Murderer 2 / Priest Jesse Sharp as George, Duke of Clarence / Ely / Duke of Norfolk / Bourchier Dan Wingard as Sir Richard Ratcliffe / Lovell Kathy Bell Denton as Queen Margaret Alexis Wolfe as Lady Anne Charlotte Chanler as Richard, Duke of York Nathan Wellman as Edward, Prince of Wales / Messenger 1 / Hastings Cole Wagner as Grey / Dorset / Messenger 3 / Herbert Kimberly Atkinson as Queen Elizabeth Chairman Barnes as King Edward / Lord Mayor of London Christopher Greenwood as Sir Robert Brackenbury / Keeper / Sheriff Colin Willkie as Earl Rivers / Sir James Blunt / Messenger 4
Jay Bogdanowitsch as Sir William Catesby
Shaela Cook as Queen Elizabeth and Lady Anne
Mark Donovan as Edward, Prince of Wales / Messenger 1 / Hastings
Trent Hopkins as King Edward / Lord Mayor of London
Cj Merriman as Henry, Earl of Richmond / Murderer 2 / Priest
Laura Napoli as Richard, Duke of York
Ruth Silveira as Queen Margaret
Donal Thoms-Cappello as Duke of Gloucester / King Richard III
Terry Tocantins as George, Duke of Clarence / Ely / Duke of Norfolk / Bourchier
Lead Producer - David Mayes
Producers - Chris Millar & Gregory Sims
Associate Producers - Ben Rock & Leon Russom
Assistant Director - Rebecca Larsen
Dramaturge - Julia Griswold
Pre-show Producer - Tegan Ashton Cohan
Stage Manager - Suze Campagna
Set Designer - Tifanie McQueen
Builder - Dave Knutson
Lighting Designer - John Sylvain
Costume Designer - Jennifer Christina Smith
Music - Kays Alatrakchi
Props Coordinator - Brianna Kondrat
Assistant Props Coordinator - Kimberly Atkinson
Fight Choreographer - Sondra Mayer
Community Outreach Coordinators - Jessica Sherman & Emily Donn
Graphic & Sound Design - Ben Rock
Photography - Chris Millar
Board Operators - CJ Woods & Suze Campagna
One of William Shakespeare’s darkest plays is now lighting up the Sacred Fools stage. Director Ben Rock guides nineteen actors through this massive work with careful regard for authenticity and reverential consideration to the Bard’s intent. The result is an absorbing presentation with riveting performances from the uniformly excellent cast. As portrayed by Gregory Sims, Richard is an unscrupulously ambitious man who stops at nothing to rise to power. Sims succeeds in giving Richard a cynically vile persona, with a certain wicked sense of humor at times. Richard’s partial physical deformity is artfully depicted, at times becoming an asset in his deranged ascent. The character often addresses the audience, as if engaging them into his complicity, then showing how easily he can betray the confidence by ordering the death of a perceived enemy whether justified or not. We first see his treachery when he orders the death of his brother Clarence after trumping up a story that purports a threat from things bearing the letter “G”, (Clarence is George, 1st Duke of Clarence) and the G in his name becomes the threat and he is imprisoned in the Tower of London where he is eventually murdered.
His advisor, cousin and confidant, the Duke of Buckingham, champions Richard through most of his rise, until he is told that he must murder the Princess, Lady Anne so he can connect with his niece, princess Elizabeth. Buckingham’s hesitation eventually becomes his demise, and like many others who opposed Richard, he eventually is separated from his head. Leon Russom is excellent, as he depicts Buckingham’s loyalties drifting from support to opposition.
The primarily male cast is balanced by the strong performances of the women who, even though apparently powerless, have a strong influence on the story line. Alexis Wolfe, as Lady Anne, manages a convincing appearance as the woman whose husband is killed by Richard and later allows herself to be convinced to marry him after he advances a cynical skewed argument. Kimberly Atkinson is excellent as the wife of Edward IV, who at his death names Richard as Protector, but when Edward’s young son becomes king, Richard eventually has him killed as he paves the way to the eventual throne. Kathy Bell Denton is a powerful Queen Margaret, who scowls and curses everyone as the embittered widow of Henry VI who was killed to get Edward IV to the throne. Richard also had her son killed and Denton manages a believable righteous anger at everyone involved in the deception. Cynthia Beckert gives a strong performance as the Duchess of York, mother of Richard and the murdered Clarence who eventually curses Richard for his foul deeds.
As the story progresses, we see Richard becoming more irrational and contradictory. His followers begin to turn away and he is finally drawn into battle at Bosworth Field. It is there that the Earl of Richmond leads his inspired army to a victory where he eventually duels Richard III to his death, taking over the throne as Henry VII (Cameron Cash). Then he marries Elizabeth, the woman that Richard lusted after when he had Lady Anne killed. It is in this scene where the famous quote of "... my kingdom for a horse!" is screamed in terror by Richard who realizes he is facing certain death.
With all the characters and situations the play flirts around with an almost three hour time span, made easily tolerable by the swift and constant action and the tight direction. Scenes flow into one another and the sometimes difficult Shakespearean speech is easily grasped as the actors bring the words to life. This is an excellent presentation and Shakespeare fans will appreciate that it has not been updated, adapted or diversity-cast as many of the Bard’s works are often done. Not that there is anything wrong with that when done properly. But it’s nice to see a play that is close to the original with minimal liberties where the story and the substance of the plot take precedence over the style. But then again, fools or not, the people in this company know how to put on a great show.
© 2012 ReviewPlays.com