Bloody ‘Richard’ is a forceful study of evil
Kevin Theis as "Richard III" at Oak Park Festival Theatre
Oak Park Festival Theatre at Austin Gardens, 167 Forest Ave., Oak Park, through Aug. 25.
Performances 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 7 p.m. Sunday; 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22; through Aug. 25
$25, seniors $20, students $15, and children under 12 and dogs free
(708) 445-4440 or www.oakparkfestival.com
Updated: August 10, 2012 11:54AM
In “Richard III,” one of Shakespeare’s bloody history plays, the power-hungry Duke of Gloucester minces no words in disclosing his agenda: He’ll do whatever it takes to wear the crown as England’s monarch.
And woe to anyone who gets in the way.
Watching the embittered hunchbacked character bulldoze his way to the top in Oak Park Festival Theatre’s robust production directed by Belinda Bremner offers audiences a thrill ride that’s both satisfying and terrifying.
Kevin Theis, a skilled actor who has appeared onstage numerous times for Oak Park Festival Theatre since 1990, puts his considerable talents to the test in the title role and captures his villainous character’s manipulative personality in all its complexity.
Joining Theis is a hard-working 30-member cast with nary a weak link.
Richard covertly plots against his trusting older brother Clarence (Ted Hoerl), whose death shortens the line of succession to the throne that’s held by the eldest brother, King Edward IV.
Next, for political expediency, Richard sets out to secure a marriage contract with Lady Anne (Jhenai Mootz), widow of Prince Edward, who was the son of the former king, Henry VI. A consummate poseur, Richard succeeds in his suit with false pleas of love and repentance. In a smug aside spoken directly to the audience, he admits to killing Prince Edward and Henry VI and confesses he will discard Anne once she has served his purpose.
Continuing to strengthen his power base, Richard ruthlessly commands the death of Hastings (Mark Richard), a nobleman loyal to Edward IV. There’s further mayhem when agents at Richard’s behest murder two of his nephews, royal sons who were heirs to the throne as children of Edward IV and Elizabeth (Sara Nichols, the real-life wife of Theis).
As time passes, Richard becomes increasingly paranoid, to the point where he turns against Buckingham (Dave Skvala), formerly his closest ally.
Finally all the evil-doing catches up with the now-monarch. His blind ambition without true leadership skills can’t sustain Richard’s grip on the crown, and the people turn on him.
Cursed by the women he has wronged and haunted by visions of innocents slain on his orders, Richard III is slain in a battle against forces led by Buckingham and Richmond (Drew Johnson), representing the Lancaster royal family.
The show is a breathtaking study of a morally bankrupt human being, and a strong finish to a political summer, and just the thing to cap the ambitious theater company’s 38th season.