Review: Richard III

Tyler Woods in Richard III                        Photo by April Porterfield

By Larry Laneer
September 17, 2018

That villain of villains has landed at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage in Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park’s Richard III. The production can be taxing, but it is a chance to see one of our leading actors at the top of his game in the title role.

Playing the part for the first time, Tyler Woods has complete command in the role of Richard from the play’s first line (“Now is the winter of our discontent”). His Richard can go from charming—almost a hail-fellow-well-met—to perversely villainous at the change of a line. Richard has other people do his dirty work and doesn’t hesitate to cast off allies who are of no further use. He goes back on his word and rumor mongers. He’s mercurial and self-centered. If he’s beginning to sound a lot like Trump, let me correct that right now. Richard has ten times more depth and range than Trump. And Woods brings every quality and subtlety to the fore. His performance carries the entire production.

Richard III is a long play with a lot of characters. The director Kathryn McGill has marshaled her forces, many of them young. Rick Lockett, an experienced actor, does a top-notch job as King Edward and Lord Stanley. Micah Weese as Catesby, Richard’s fixer-in-chief, and Justin Armer as Buckingham, Richard’s devoted ally until he’s not, give solid performances. Alexis Pudvan as Lady Anne and Alyssa Fantel as Queen Elizabeth are fine. Joseph Campbell fatally crosses Richard as Lord Rivers and curries his favor with a basket of strawberries as the Bishop of Ely.

Elisa Bierschenk’s costumes suggest an early to mid-20th century setting. Richard’s jacket has the image of what looks like a wild boar on the back (a line in the play refers to Richard’s attack on Richmond as the “boar’s annoy”). Peers have a boar or crown crest on their suit jacket pockets to show their allegiance to Richard or others. The stylish widow’s weeds increase as Richard knocks off his relatives who might claim the throne of England. But what’s with those catcher’s chest protectors both armies wear in the final scenes? It looks like they’re settling the Wars of the Roses with a softball game.

At the reviewed performance, a DJ blared mariachi music on the other side of the tubular conservatory spanning the Myriad Gardens pond. The music served as a background to this 16th-century play done in 20th-century dress. Talk about a distancing effect.

In the last 400 years, anyone who has ever spoken English has said or heard a line of Shakespeare, maybe without knowing it (“Neither a borrower nor a lender be”; “to thine own self be true”). You may have never said this in real life, but it’s great to hear Woods exclaim “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

Richard III by William Shakespeare
Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park
8:00 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, September 20-22, Thursday-Friday, September 27-28
Myriad Gardens Water Stage
301 W. Reno Ave.