November 16, 2019
A gaping slot near the front of the dirt-strewn stage swallows one lifeless body after another in the Druid Company’s unsettling Richard III which appeared as part of this year’s White Light Festival.
Grippingly directed by Garry Hynes, she engages a great collaborator in the actor Aaron Monaghan. Bent to the side, perhaps so he can see others without notice, and stooped over two black canes that double as a cockroach manacles, he salivates over power and drools around ladies.
Richard III’s goal: to be king of England. After Henry VI dies, an ailing Edward IV is crowned. But Richard has plans that will not be denied. Swathed in black, this Svengali of the British monarchy is obsessed with power and unhesitant in his pursuit of the crown.
James F. Ingalls’ slats of light filters the smoky air of rot and disintegration trapped on Francis O’Connor’s dirt floor, grey pillars and most importantly, the skull of a king suspended in a lit cage. O’Connor’s costumes favor an Elizabethan-noir style that features lots of leather, spiky edges, and bulbous back ends for the females.
Strategically plotting each person’s fate, Richard (Monaghan) flatters his prey, and then blows them away. Instead of a handicap, Richard leans on his deformity as a shield of sympathy. Of course, what’s most unsettling is the way Monaghan breaches his prey’s ego with uncompromising flattery prior to their elimination.
Richard presides over an incessant whirlpool of intrigue and crime. Uncannily charming -- and almost a little too handsome-- Richard III is a master of the double entendre. First he quips pious platitudes, then tilts his head, allowing a smile to upend his lips before snarling the truth-of-the-matter. Skillfully adept at addressing the audience and immediately super-imposing himself back into the middle of the plot, Montague is an awe-inspiring Shakespearean interpreter.
Although the women do not figure prominently in Richard III, Hynes’ casts the bone-chilling Queen Margaret (Marie Mullen) as the soothsayer. The equivalent of Macbeth’s witches, Mullen crouches heavily over the earth, drawing Richard’s circle of life smaller, and smaller and smaller.
The whole cast is eloquent, totally at ease in their Shakespearean tempi, committed to deft articulation of the text and Hynes’ vision.
Uncannily echoing today’s political mayhem, Richard could not have succeeded in ruling over a morally poisonous reign without the willingness of high-ranking officials to whom he pledges loyalty only to dump them in the abyss.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis