Jay Whittaker is a Richard III you’ll love to hate

 By Carol Davis

Carol Davis

SAN DIEGO — Let’s get one thing clear, Richard III Duke of Gloucester is a demon and not because his body is deformed. There is not one redeeming quality about him to admire yet he manages to con at least one member of royalty, Lady Anne (Vivia Font) whose husband and father-in law both died at Richard’s bidding, to marry him in a sadistic turn of events.  (“Was ever a woman in this humor woo’d? Was ever a woman in this humor won? I’ll have her; -but I will not keep her long.) scene ii

He then manages to anger everyone else in the royal court who stands in his way as he methodically kills off any and all of his royal rivals and would-be rivals as he proceeds with enthusiasm and skill on his journey to performing the biggest coup ever, and in plain sight. And then brags about it. In my world that’s called chutzpah! (Shameless audacity; impudence).

He limps with his leg in a brace, his deformed arm dangling like a piece of dead meat and he billows at the top of his high pitched voice managing to scare the bejezis out of those he plans to be rid of as he wins loyalty from those who side with him. Embracing this character, Jay Whitaker takes center stage as Richard III sucking us in from the get-go and never letting us forget that he makes the calls and his generals will do as he commands.

On his brutal rise to power, his victims include: (and not in any particular order) George, Duke of Clarence or Clarence (Happy Anderson is convincing) his brother who ironically was on his side; Edward, Anne’s husband (who is already dead when the play opens); Lord Hastings, the lord chamberlain of England, who objects to Richard’s goals, and Edward’s two young sons, the Duke of York (Alden Hayek) and young Prince of Wales (Jonas McMullen). Both youngsters are poised as would-be heirs to the throne.

Under the guise of protecting them, he banishes the two to the tower never to be seen by anyone again. Lord Hastings (Robert Foxworth) is also eliminated when he disagrees with Richard.  When his once ally, the Duke of Buckingham (Jacques C. Smith) hesitates to jump at a command his goose is cooked.  All will all come back to haunt the disturbed King in Act II while ghosts of the past appear in his dreams and Richard’s world begins to unravel as war takes its toll.

In the meantime his mother the Duchess of York (Deborah Radloff) curses him out and wishes him dead, as does Queen Elizabeth and Queen Margaret (Robin Moseley) piling more curses upon him than Carter has liver pills. But no matter, he has a plan and no one will stop him. He is some peach of a guy but manages to charge his way in, in his own way and we see it all played out with clarity, vitality, savagery and (I hesitate to admit) excitement and awe on the Globe’s Festival Stage.

Adding insult to injury, he is so sure of himself is he that he astonishes his sister in law, Queen Elizabeth (Dana Green is superb as the outraged queen) in asking for his niece’s hand in marriage (after he has his two nephews slain) in order to unite the House of York and the House of Lancaster. But it’s all for naught as you will see as Henry, Earl of Richmond/Henry VII (Dan Amboyer) takes his place on the battle fields and has Richard destroyed in a killing frenzy.

Thus Shakespeare’s story of the villainous “Richard III” unfolds on Ralph Funicello’s graffiti marred set, dressed in Deirdre Clancy’s hard-to-define but stylish leathery brown, color-coordinated outfits and deftly directed by Lindsay Posner.

Much like the Hatfields and McCoys only this time the war is between the House of York and the House of Lancaster, ultimately setting the stage, after some blood baths, for the rise of the House of Tutor and an end to the War of the Roses. Jay Whittaker is a marvel as this “Richard III” kicks off the summer outdoor festival racking up some pretty high grades along the way.

While Richard III is touted as one of the longer of Shakespeare’s plays you won’t be antsy through this one. Director Posner, actor Jay Whittaker, actresses Dana Green, Robin Moseley and Deborah Radloff (all the women in this production are at the top of their game and convincingly so) comprise a well trained ensemble. This is an excellent production worthy of your being there.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: through Sept. 29th in repertory with “As You Like It” and “Inherit The Wind”

Organization: Old Globe Theatre

Phone: 619-234-5623

Production Type: Historical drama

Where: Balboa Park

Ticket Prices: start at $15.00

Web: theoldglobe.org

Venue: Lowell Davies Festival Stage


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