nytheatre.com review by Kelly McAllister
June 18, 2005
Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot, the venerable outdoor festival performed every summer in a parking lot in the Lower East Side, is one of the great treasures of our fair city. There is something magical about it—a spare production, with little to no budget, mostly raw young cast members, and what seems like a thousand passersby who have no trouble walking right through a scene. I’ve seen many productions in the parking lot, and they never fail to entertain. The first offering from the lot this year is Richard III—and it’s fantastic.
Director Joe Beaudin has created a piece that perfectly suits its environment and time. Shakespeare’s Richard III is about a usurper—a pretender to the throne created by the violent times into which he was born. Beaudin has set the play in the mind of a high school outcast who has had enough of bullying, and decided to live in a world where he can crawl his way to the top. There are obvious associations with the recent spate of school violence here in America, but the production never hits you over the head with them. At the top of the play, we see the young outcast, played by Joshua Tussin, meekly sitting on a stool reading Richard III, as the bullies and popular kids walk past, either ignoring him completely, making fun of him, or knocking him about. The outcast explodes in a fit of rage, screaming “Now is the winter of our discontent!” From there, we enter the world of Richard III, always from the point of view of this young man. The outcast is Richard, the football hero is King Edward, and so on. Sometimes, putting a concept on Shakespeare can muddy the play: not so here. The story is made clearer and more accessible. Beaudin has cut the play smartly, leaving us with a bare-bones tale about greed, corruption, and power. The staging is simple and straightforward, allowing us to focus on the actors and the words they are saying.
The cast is of varied levels of experience, and some of them could be a little louder—but overall, they do a great job. As Richard, Joshua Tussin is excellent. His focus is impeccable, from the moment he walks on stage to the final bow—he never, ever drops the ball. His Richard is a gangly nerd, so convincingly full of rage and thoughts of revenge that you can’t keep your eyes off him. As Lady Anne, the woman whom Richard seduces and marries after having killed her husband and father-in-law, Beth Ann Leone is awesome—at once fragile and resolute, intelligent and foolish. Richard's seduction of Anne is one of the more difficult scenes in all of Shakespeare, but Tussin and Leone pull it off masterfully. Other standouts in the cast include Debbie Hoodiman as the innocent young prince destined to be murdered in the tower of London; Bill Homan as York; Amanda Bruton as Buckingham; Michael C. O’Day as a particularly petulant Clarence; and Claudia Fucigna as Elizabeth—her scene with Richard toward the end of the play is one of the highlights of the show.
Richard III is a perfect show for the parking lot. Any show that can hold its own against the elements in a parking lot just off Delancey Street is something of a miracle. Go see this one.