Monday, September 30, 2013

Richard III, Great Lakes Theatre

(Lynn Robert Berg as Richard III)

It has been observed that corporate CEOs (okay, some of them) share a disturbing number of traits with sociopaths. Both groups tend to be narcissistic, care little to nothing about the fates or feelings of others, and are able to, um, kill people with impunity.

This comparison is brought home with powerful clarity in Richard III at the Great Lakes Theater. It features a gleaming, contemporary set comprised of glass and steel that any corporation could easily move into at a moment’s notice. And the power brokers vying for dominance in these halls are conniving and vicious.

None more so than the crippled “rudely stamp’d” King Richard, who prowls the bloody halls of England’s ruling class, eliminating his competition with a ruthless efficiency that has immediate bottom-line results.

Directed by Joseph Hanreddy, this production literally drips with blood. Queen Margaret, the widow of King Henry VI, pours a few gallons of plasma off the balcony into a waiting tub every time another person is dispatched.

It’s a stylish way to handle the gore, reflective of a production that is slick and entertaining from start to finish. The cast is led ably by Lynn Robert Berg as Richard, limping about on his twisted legs as he coos and snarls to put people in their place. It is a masterful and often witty performance that never becomes tiresome.

As Richard’s doomed henchman the Duke of Buckingham, David Anthony Smith cadges some chuckles along the way before his demise. And Laurie Birmingham as Queen Margaret almost out-does Uzo Aduba, the “crazy eyes” convict in TV’s Orange Is the New Black, flashing her haunted orbs as she looks daggers at Richard while lathering him with insults.

The double-cast J. Todd Adams is excellent as both hapless George, Duke of Clarence and as Richard’s merciless capo, Sir William Catesby. And Tom Ford uses his wry delivery to fine effect as Lord Hastings.

The production ends with a teeth-rattling battle scene that ends Richard’s brief tenure in the corner office. If only CEOs could be dislodged as easily.

Richard III
Through November 2 at Great Lakes Theater, Hanna Theater, 2067 E. 14th St., 216-241-6000

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