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Richard II

a Tragedy
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 1071

SHOWING : October 01, 2004 - October 30, 2004



Brought back from the Tavern's successful History Extravaganza Repertory in November 2003, Richard II is a gentle, heart-wrenching portrayal of one King's downfall from power and himself. Featuring Jeff McKerley as Richard. Directed by Jeff Watkins.

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I want to see actors on the stage, not in the lobby or out in the house
by Okely Dokely
Thursday, November 4, 2004
This was a competent production. I'm going to surrender and say that as this was my first time being exposed to this piece in any form, I didn't really "get" it this time around. It usually takes me a couple times through to become acquainted with a work by Shakespeare. I can talk to you about Shrew, Midsummer, the Scottish play, etc., but not this. Not yet.

So what's one to do when most of the text goes over one's head? Sit back and admire the spectacle, I guess. I am glad I finally got to see a Shakespeare show at the Shakespeare Tavern. My favorite performances came from Troy Willis, Eric Brooks, Tony Brown, and several of the young supporting players show promising futures in the theatre business. Alas, I must echo the chorus of those who have expressed disappointment with Maurice Ralston's performance. Towards the beginning, he seemed to simply be accenting the ends of each line where there is a rhyme, much like how a junior high-schooler who is inexperienced at reading Shakespeare would deliver it. He got better in that aspect as the evening progressed, but he didn't play it as "sharp" as I think the character needed to be. I believe it's a role that James Donadio would have nailed. Finally, I have to mention Jeff McKerley, my favorite local actor and the reason I came to see this show. I will gladly reiterate that he's a good actor. He handled the material well. The problem was that he played the role a little too effeminate and prissy for my tastes. Still, though, he's a big name, and it was probably in the Tavern's best interests to cast him, as it is an inspired casting choice, so I still enjoyed him nonetheless, even though I've seen him do better.

I'm not sure how appropriate it is for actors to be out and about in the house/the lobby/the cafe to talk to friends, get a drink of water, etc. before the show (when the house is already open) and during intermission. I was surprised at this. Some of them were even in costume when they came out. It seems unprofessional, and shatters the illusion. One wonders whether they got permission from the Stage Manager to do this.

In conclusion, as a first Shakespeare experience at the Tavern, it was a little mixed, but I will be back.

P.S. - Why is it that a little community theatre up in Dahlonega has much nicer playbills than a well-known Equity theatre downtown? It's something I've been wondering for quite a while. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Actors out before show starts by Shadrach
That's pretty much what they do at the Tavern. Most of the actors don't do it, but some of the more well-known actors there (Tony Brown, Maurice Ralston, Jeff McKerley, Marc McPherson) do go out and greet some of the Tavern regulars before the show starts.
Thanks for the heads up by Okely Dokely
I was not aware of that, as Johnny Carson says. I guess I can kinda understand it - and maybe even get used to it one day. What I have a problem with is when they come out, during intermission, in costume, not to talk to people but to walk all the way through the house to the water fountain in the cafeteria to have a drink. Surely they could bring a water bottle. It's an actor's best friend.

In my 4 visits to the Tavern as a patron, aside form Richard II, I'm remembering now that when I saw the Murder in the Cathedral/Salome double-header last year, Tony Brown made a brief appearance before the show to talk to a buddy in the front row. What I think is unnecessary and inappropriate is what I described in the above paragraph.

By the way, Clint, thanks for the playbill.
playbill by Shadrach
You're welcome, Mark...trying to remember which one I sent you. Big River, wasn't it?
Yup by Okely Dokely
It was for Big River.
More info by JasonMeinhardt
Okely...first off, long time no see or talk. But when I was at the Tavern, we were allowed to go to the back and go outside to ahem...smoke. I don't recall ever doing it in full costume, except when we were going on in the first scene after intermission and we had to enter from the back. But we just stood back there, no talking to audiences, etc. Just another bit of info from an "inside" source. ;)
Prissy and Effeminate by Dedalus
My first exposure to this play was at the Stratford (Canada) Festival about five years ago. Richard was played EXTREMELY effeminate in this case (contrasting nicely with a very macho Bolingbroke), and his "minions" were even worse. But, in the first scene, the actor (I think his name was Jordy Jordan or something alliterative like that -- I'd have to look it up), when required to be "Kingly," handled that aspect well -- it was like turning on a switch and it really underscored one of the play's contrasts (Kingship as Role vs Kingship as behavior). Needless to see, I thought Mr. McKerley's "prissiness" (at least when done in last year's history cycle) was right on target.

BTW, another concept from the Stratford production was having the queen and her ladis-in-waiting played by 12-year-old actresses. Historically, this was a marriage of state, and the queen was, I think 8 or 9 when Richard died. The odd thing was, this didn't seem "sleezy" - he behaved like a "big brother" in there scenes together -- there was love and affection, but no icky lust time stuff.
agree with dedalus, disagree with oakly by mark
i strongly agree with dedalus on this one. richard is traditionally played as highly effeminate, and i though jeff's work was toned down and refreshing. i can't say too much more since i'm involved with the theater. but i will say i think highly of oakly's reviews, but i'm not sure about his background/knowledge specifically with shakespeare.
You're all right by Okely Dokely
Thanks to Dedalus and Mark for the comments. Mark is right - I'm not that familiar with this piece, and I tried to make that clear in the review. I've seen several gay actors try really hard to butch it up, but fail, and I thought that this was nothing more than one of those times. I have underestimated the McKerley-meister. Now that I know that it was a conscious character choice, I'm hoping to see the show again sometime somewhere. Now that I think about it, I am reminded of John Malkovich's performance in "The Messenger." Those who have seen that movie will know what I'm talking about. Thanks for the enlightenment.

I apologize if my wording in the above paragraph offended anyone. It probably didn't, but I just wanted to cover all my bases.


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