“Richard III” at IndyFringe Basile Theatre

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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

First Folio Productions and Catalyst Repertory have combined forces to present the epic drama Richard III at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre.

Shakespeare’s tragic play offers up one of his most intriguing characters in Gloucester/Richard, the physically flawed, and notoriously hateful villain, who murdered all who stood between him and the throne of England. Skillfully adapted by Ben Power, Casey Ross and director Glenn Dobbs – the production begins with the 2012 discovery of Richard’s remains in a Leicester, England parking lot. This scene melds into Gloucester’s opening monologue, “Now is the winter of our discontent…” and we are off.

What follows is a compelling account of the King Richard III saga, augmented by Linda Schornhorst’s lush costume designs, a rich soundtrack designed by Brian G. Hartz, and fight choreography by Scott Russell, all on the simple set designed by Fred Margison and Andy Burnett.

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Matt Anderson as Richard in First Folio and Catalyst Repertory’s production of “Richard III”.

Matt Anderson is thoroughly masterful as Richard. He truly becomes the fated scoundrel in what is a very physical and methodical portrayal. Anderson leaves no doubt that this is a damaged man, his extreme awkwardness only amplifying his focused desire to achieve the throne. Richard’s words drip with desire and hatefulness, and his body reveals the pain of his being. The supporting cast has a great advantage by being able to react to the seething performance Anderson renders.

Carey Shea plays the dual roles of Richard’s brother Clarence and his opponent Richmond. Both are offered with confident, spot-on depictions. Allison Clark Reddick gives a stirring performance as the widow of Richard’s brother – Queen Elizabeth. Her sorrow at the tragedies in her character’s life is immense yet varied enough to be compelling and genuine. Matthew Socey is effective as the weakened husband of the queen, King Edward IV; Christina Howard is sad and lovely as the stricken Lady Anne; and Nan Macy projects her role as Richard’s mother, Duchess of York, with great authority.

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Matt Anderson (Richard), Allison Clark Reddick (Elizabeth), and Nan Macy (Duchess of York) in First Folio and Catalyst Repertory’s production of “Richard III” .

The various assignments given Jay Hemphill (Buckingham), Casey Ross (Queen Margaret), Doug Powers (Rivers/Sir Urswisk), Kevin Caraher (Hastings), and Ryan Reddick (Stanley),  plus John Mortell, Mark Cashwell and Mike Varick (each in various roles) are all well met. Also, Dalyn Stewart and Lex Lumpkin both do themselves honor with their portrayals of Richard’s young nephews, Prince Edward and Duke of York.

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Kevin Caraher (Lord Hastings), Matthew Socey (King Edward IV), and Allison Clark Reddick (Queen Elizabeth) in First Folio and Catalyst Repertory’s production of “Richard III” .

This is a strong presentation, filled with well-developed performances. Most everything that has been pieced together for the production emphatically meets the goal of conveying this complicated story to the minds of the audience in an understandable and potent way.

My only negative comment for this impressive show is that the background sound track, while well-chosen and effective in its result, was at times too intense in volume, keeping me from fully understanding the players. I think this could easily be corrected – as I believe the most important part of theatre is the actors’ conveyance to an audience.

Bottomline: Shakespeare fans, and indeed anyone who loves good theatre, will want to attend this high level Richard III. Director Glenn Dobbs has gained an impressive reputation with his well-researched, high quality productions of the bard’s works. This one is not to be missed.

Richard III continues weekends at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre near Mass Ave through July 9th. You can get information about the shows, and purchase tickets, by going to http://www.indyfringe.org/theatre-show/richard-111 .

  • – photos by Gary Nelson

 

“King Lear” at Bard Fest

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banner-2 reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

William Shakespeare’s King Lear is a large-scale story – a calamitous yarn of kings and courts, battlements and precipices. Usually one would expect such an outsized tale to be performed on a full sized stage, in a grand setting. One part of the magic of First Folio Production’s offering of the play is that we are invited to witness all of this on Studio 15’s compact stage. Director Carey Shea has styled his production to not only fit the confines, but indeed, in some ways to expand it.

Bolstered with a fine sound design by Tristan Ross, and colorful costuming by Dianna Mosedale, Shea’s King Lear comes across in fine stead, asking the audience to use some of their imagination skills, something I am always pleased to note. The set, consisting of four rotating panels, plus an added chair or banner or rock, is suitable for this simpler telling of a complex account. Shea’s cast of actors more than rises to the occasion, delivering fully developed characterizations and clear story-telling – their excellent diction being one highlight of their endeavors.

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Cordelia (Ann Marie Elliott) watches her father King Lear (David Mosedale) in Bard Fest’s “King Lear”

David Mosedale takes on the difficult title role. He proves to be up to the task, delivering a well conceived depiction, skillfully balancing Lear’s wisdom, emotion and madness. Ann Marie Elliott is lovely in the dual role of Cordelia and her posing as the Fool. She conveys the gentle nature of both with aplomb. Likewise, Doug Powers’ Kent shows the strength of being his own man with a definitive performance. Craig Kemp plays Gloucester with clear purpose – we never doubt his intention to do what is right. Zach Stonerock does a masterful job with Gloucester’s son Edgar, driven to madness in his exile. Matt Anderson gives Albany a full depiction, as both hen-pecked husband and courageous loyalist.

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Goneril (Sarah Frehlke) comforts a dying Edmound (Bradford Reilly) in Bard Fest’s “King Lear”

Shakespeare floods the stage with evil-doers: Goneril and Reagen, the two unscrupulous daughters of the king, are given due portrayals by Sarah Froehlke and Beth Clark, conniving and dishonest. Bradford Reilly shows special talent as the slick opportunist, Edmound, while Tristan Ross plays the large and threatening Cornwall with an apt fierceness.

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Edgar (Zach Stonerock) tends to his blinded father Gloucester (Craig Kemp) in Bard Fest’s “King Lear”

Bottomline: a thoughtful production design coupled with a highly talented cast are assets in bringing a difficult play to life. This is a wonderful opportunity to see a top-notch production of a rarely produced masterpiece.

King Lear continues as part of the 2nd annual Bard Fest, currently running through October 30th at Carmel Theatre Company’s Studio 15. Productions of Twelfth Night and Coriolanus are also offered during the festival. For information about the schedule and ticket sales go to http://brownpapertickets.com/ and search events in Carmel IN, or call the box office at 317-688-8876.

First Folio’s “Hamlet” at Wayne Township Community Theatre

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Surely, producing one of William Shakespeare’s greatest works, indeed one which is called “the greatest play ever written” in many camps, is a vast undertaking. For a “community theatre” group to tackle the project, albeit a company such as First Folio Productions with it’s feet firmly planted in Shakespearean works, is doubly difficult. But director Glenn Dobbs most certainly has surrounded himself with a plethora of innovative craftsmen and designers, talented avocational actors, and dedicated producers to accomplish the wonder which is The Tragedy of Hamlet, currently being presented in a very limited run at Ben Davis High School.

This skillfully edited version of the play remains a true telling of the tale of Hamlet, the disillusioned prince who sees the death of his father King Hamlet lead to his uncle Claudius’ rise to the throne and his mother Gertrude’s marriage to the new king. A dynamic performance by Carey Shea as Hamlet leads the way in excellence. Shea nimbly portrays the many facets of the vengeful prince with a fine understanding of the man, his conflicts, and his thoughts and ideals. As the role of Hamlet is one which signifies a “top of the list” opportunity of accomplishment for an actor, Shea has show himself to be a more than capable practitioner.

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Carey Shea, left – as Hamlet, with Tom Weingartner, as Polonius in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

Matt Anderson is spot on as Claudius, anxiously dealing with his ill gotten position, caught between a restless demeanor and a false bluster of confidence. Ericka Barker’s uneasy Gertrude is confounded by all the changes around her – especially her son’s sudden madness, and his disdain for her.

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Tom Weingaten, left, as Polonius, Matt Anderson as Claudius, and Ericka Barker as Gertrude in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

There are many other solidly done portrayals, indicating director Dobbs’ deft and detailed handling of the cast. Tom Weingartner’s Polonius, John Mortell as Laertes and Benjamin Mathis’s Horatio all find high levels of achievement. The difficult role of Ophelia receives perhaps the most polished and awesome rendering. Devan Mathias’ emotional turn as the bewildered young noblewoman is devastatingly truthful and deep. Ms. Mathias totally immerses herself in her reactions to the puzzling treatment given her by Hamlet, as well as in her character’s madness after Polonius’ death, with a breathlessly complete performance. Additionally, the many supporting players do excellent work. Of particular note is Chris Burton as both the lively gravedigger and the Lead Player.

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Devan Mathias, left, as Ophelia and John Mortell as Laertes in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

 

Technical aspects of the show also deserve praise. Fred Margison’s set is beautiful and ideal for the necessary variety of settings. Lighting designer Donald Stikeleather adds a feel of drama and power. Costume design by Melody Burnett, Linda Schornhorst and Anne Gross is elegantly quirky in it’s bow to a steampunk theme and vigorous fight choreography by Scott Russell is amazingly realistic with a spontaneous feel.

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The ensemble celebrates the marriage of Claudius, center left, played by Matt Anderson and Gertrude, played by Ericka Barker in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

There is no way to describe this show other than as a complete triumph. All facets of it fall unerringly into place and offer the audience a thoughtful journey through this iconic tragedy. Unfortunately, this offering only runs two weekends – so hopefully you can soon make plans to see it. Do not delay! A production this good deserves support by Indy’s theatre-going community.

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Carey Shea , left, as Hamlet and John Mortell, as Laertes, duel in a scene from First Folio Productions’ “Hamlet”.

Hamlet will continue May 28th, 29th, June 3rd, 4th and 5th at the theatre at Ben Davis High School. Information about dates and times can be found on the internet here or by calling 317-988-7966.

  • – Photos by Joe Konz