Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

Richard III
Seattle Shakespeare Company / upstart crow collective
Review by David Edward Hughes

Also see David's review of The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes

Mari Nelson, Peggy Gannon, Sarah Harlett,
Chanya Wiparungsri, and Yadira Duarte

Photo by HMMM Productions
While I must confess to being somewhat of a Shakespeare aficionado, I hated missing out two seasons back on Seattle Shakespeare Company and upstart crow collective's lauded, Gregory Award winning Bring Down the House, a two-part event encompassing the Henry VI trilogy as performed by a fierce female cast. Lightning has struck twice, though, for the two companies and several of the same actresses have gotten Seattle's fall season off to a brilliant and bloody start with a sublime Richard III which is now in production at Seattle Repertory Theatre's Leo K. stage.

Director Rosa Joshi stages this epic tragedy with a lot of welcome dark humor and with swift yet never rushed pacing, sharing those honors with movement director Alice Gosti and fight choreographer by Peter Dylan O'Conner. I knew little about Richard III other than that he was a hunchback who would ride into battle shouting "My kingdom for a horse," but I didn't have a bit of trouble following who was who (despite most of the cast essaying multiple roles) or what was happening. It picks up right where the Henry VI plays ended, with the house of York victorious and King Richard being crowned. Richard III is sullen, angry, consumed by the desire to gain the throne from his brother, King Edward. He betrays his nearest kin and skillfully manages his rise upwards, dooming himself by all his ghastly deeds.

Sarah Harlett must have been so happy to tackle the role of Richard again, and she takes great relish in every nasty betrayal and screwing over of his fellow royals. Harlett is hard to take your eyes off of during her several soliloquies and many confrontations. Without becoming the expected despot riddled with deformities, an askew arm and a limp let us focus on the mucked-up inner soul of the scoundrel. Richard's mother, the stately Duchess of York, is right in the wheelhouse of the excellent Mari Nelson, who also makes a hell of a comic henchman/murderer under Richard's employ. Suzanne Bouchard offers a tough as steel edge to her role as the traitorous Buckingham, while Kate Wisniewski as the haggard, withered and vengeful Queen Margaret lays on her curses like a demon dog from hell, yet we still feel for her. These women are the standouts in an ensemble without a weak link.

The mood of foreboding and doom is immediately captured by Shawn Ketchum Johnson's scenic design (A spider web of metal cables rising to the ceiling, that create various locales and are at times used as musical instruments). Lighting designer Jeff Korf creates the shadowy ambience required, and his use of hand-held lighting equipment is inspired. Christine Tschirgi's costume designs are dark-hued glories, which allow for many quick costume changes.

This production of Richard III stands tall as don't miss theatre, as well as a grim and timely reminder of the misuse of power in high places.

Richard III, through October 7, 2018, at the Leo K. Theatre in Seattle Center. For tickets go to