Saturday, July 10, 2010

New York Classical Theatre's Richard III

I am more and more coming to believe that the New York Classical Theatre company is one of the real gems of this city. We saw an earlier production of theirs--Hamlet, at the World Financial Center--and it has still stuck with me, particularly the way that they transformed the mall-like confines of the WFC into a castle in Denmark.

The last play we saw of theirs was Richard III, a sprawling complicated work about the bloodlines of the British royals. The play is a long one, and the NYCT confidently pared it down so that we were out of there just after dusk.

There is something supremely democratic about these productions. The audience is not full of nodding graybeards, or "theater people" but New Yorkers of all kinds who munch on food and bring their dogs, and the shows gather more people as they go on.

I think my favorite part about them however is they insert their lines into the text in order to move the audience from place to place around (in this case) Central Park or use directions found in the play and highlight those to give us our cue. In Hamlet, for example, when Claudius ask Hamlet where Polonius is, he calmly responds, "In the lobby," and on cue, we are all rose to our feet and hustled down there where the next scene was awaiting us.

These lines happened throughout Richard III. "Sit down," one character says, and then, emphatically, when the crowd seems unwilling to follow, he repeats, "SIT DOWN!!"

"Make way for the king," another goes, as the king comes up from behind the audience, and we all scooched to make a path for him.

One final note: Sean Haggerty played Richard in this performance, and played him marvelously, in all of his sweaty, twitchy, conniving glory.

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