My Friday Five: Why You Should See the Final Performance of Richard III on Sunday

I promise that I didn’t plan on writing three posts about Cleveland theatre this week. However, when Alicia got tickets to see Richard III on Wednesday and it was so incredible, an impromptu post was needed.

There’s only one more chance to see Richard III – this Sunday at 3pm. Here’s my Friday 5 on why you should cancel any Sunday Funday plans you’ve already made and get tickets.

Lynn Robert Berg as Richard III in Great Lakes Theater's production; all photos by Roger Mastroianni

Lynn Robert Berg as Richard III in Great Lakes Theater’s production; all photos by Roger Mastroianni

Lynn Robert Berg’s Richard: When I recapped Great Lakes Theater’s other ongoing show Sweeney Todd, I noted that you need a leading actor who can portray a sympathetic monster. To some extent, the same goes for Richard III.

It’s essential that the actor can capture Richard’s physical and mental deformities. His body twisted by severe scoliosis; his mind twisted by a desire to rule at all costs. However, the actor also needs to play up Richard’s charm and pious guise so that the other characters believably bend to his will.

Lynn Robert Berg, Great Lakes Theater’s Richard III, even manages to charm those of us who know better. With a sly wink to the audience, I found myself momentarily endeared to him. Then, of course, he turned around and ruthlessly ordered two young children murdered.

The Intrigue: Although Richard masterminded his destructive rise to the throne, he didn’t accomplish it on his own. His reign came at the end of England’s long War of the Roses and many of the characters already had a lot of blood on their hands.

I think it makes me a bad person, but I took a little glee in watching them throw each other under the proverbial bus in exchange for land and political security. Tom Ford’s Hastings, M.A. Taylor’s Rivers, and David McCann’s Stanley were enjoyable to watch (for as long as they lasted), but David Anthony Smith really stood out. Smith – who always brings charm to the stage (even as Othello‘s deplorable Iago) – was cast perfectly as Richard’s sneaky, smiling conspirator, the Duke of Buckingham.

Lynn Robert Berg and Laura Welsh Berg as Richard III and Queen Anne

Lynn Robert Berg and Laura Welsh Berg as Richard III and Queen Anne

The Women of Richard III: While the men of Richard III were busy plotting, the ladies were stealing the show. Three women in particular – Laurie Birmingham, Sara M. Bruner, and Laura Welsh Berg. Birmingham and Bruner’s Queens Margaret and Elizabeth were no angels; however, their grief over losing their husbands and children tore at my heart and Birmingham’s subsequent call for revenge had me cowering in my seat.

I also found Berg’s arc of hating, falling for and eventually regretting to marry Richard riveting. There is one scene early in the show where her beratement of Richard is so fiery – I almost thought she was going to slit his throat and end the play in Act I. What made that scene even better is the fact that the pair are real-life husband and wife. I can only imagine rehearsing that argument must have been some serious fun.

Repertory Theatre: Richard III is running simultaneously with Sweeney Todd. While Richard is (slightly) less gory, the violence and machinations of the two shows sync very well. It’s also a treat to see Ford go from playing the calculated Sweeney Todd to the bumbling Hastings in Richard III. You can read my review of Sweeney Todd here, which has three performances left (one tonight and two shows on Saturday).

The Discount: Save $10 off Richard III and Sweeney Todd tickets by using promo code “PR6.” It’s good for any A Level ticket. Even without the discount, you can get a great value on the $15 Historic Box seats and $20 Lounge and Bar Seats. Visit www.greatlakestheater.org or call 216.241.6000 to purchase.

Everyone is playing at something in Richard III and that's one thing I love about it and many of Shakespeare's other tragedies.

Everyone is playing at something in Richard III and that’s one thing I love about it and many of Shakespeare’s other tragedies.

I am partial to Shakespeare’s tragedies over his comedies. I love the drama, the scheming, the destruction. Especially when Great Lakes Theater does it. They find a way to make Shakespeare’s most wicked characters entertaining to watch. Don’t be surprised or ashamed if you find yourself rooting for Richard during the show. The only thing you’ll feel sorry about is if you miss your chance to see it.

Disclosure: Poise in Parma received two tickets to see the show and I joined her at the performance. However, the opinions shared here are 100% my own.

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