Richard III

REVIEW by Willard Manus

Hats off to Jack Stehlin and Casey Biggs for the RICHARD III on which they have collaborated, with impressive results. Now in its fourth month at the
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, their production is a success in every respect and deserves the many critical plaudits it has won.

RICHARD III is one of Shakespeare's most effective and relevant plays--the portrait of a tyrant, a cunning and ruthless leader who will stop at nothing
to achieve and exploit power. Written four hundred years ago, the play could be as much about Stalin, Hitler or Milosevic as it about Richard, Duke of
Gloucester. Evil, villainy and bloodthirstiness are always with us, alas.

Biggs, an associate artist in Stehlin's Circus Theatricals company (and an actor as well as a director), has put the play in modern dress, a choice
which allows him to take advantage of rear- projection video images and a soundtrack packed with striking musical and aural effects. He has also given the story a quick, crisp tempo which makes the 2 1/2-hourlong drama spank along effortlessly. Jaret Sacrey's set and Emelle Holmes' costumes are big
plusses as well--understated but evocative. Stehlin, a rare Los Angeles actor in the way he fearlessly takes on classical roles (Hamlet, Scapin, Don Juan, etc.), delivers a Richard who doesn't bother to cloak his overweening ambition in charm and ingratiation. Constantly confiding his sinister,
Machiavellian thoughts and schemes in asides to the audience, he bulldozes just about everyone in his way, whether male or female, friend or foe. Neither does he invite pity for his withered hand and deformed back; this is an intrinsically evil man, a sociopath with nary a shred of conscience.
Stehlin's fellow-actors, especially Alfred Molina as Buckingham, Adam Paul as Richmond, Allison Marich as Anne and Jill Gascoine as Elizabeth, give equally stellar performances. The rest of the company shouldn't be slighted either. Each and every member of the 15-person cast speaks the Shakespearean text with fluidity and clarity, and creates character skilfully.

This RICHARD III is without doubt one of the finest Shakespearean productions in Los Angeles history. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A. Call (310) 477-2055.