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American Players Theatre Impresses With 'Richard III'

Jul. 3, 2012
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Is there any literary character more malevolent than Shakespeare's Richard III? Deformed of body, malignant of mind, Richard murders his way to the throne of England. The “poisonous bunch-backed toad” is eventually undone, but not before killing many friends and foes he believes stand in his way.

American Players Theatre does an impressive turn with the play Richard III, which opened Saturday “Up the Hill” on the company's Spring Green campus. Few in the lengthy, highly populated production had more fun than actor James Ridge in the titular role.

Ridge evolves his character's trajectory from a calculated enthusiasm to uncontrollable paranoia. The cool logic driving Richard's ascension is the most terrifying character aspect of all. The capability to murder his father and an opponent, then convince the widow to become his queen, is psychological abuse of the highest order, something at which Richard is master.

Directed with bravado by James DeVita, Richard III calls on 32 actors to spin its three-hour-plus tale. Most impressive, perhaps, are Tracy Michelle Arnold as Margaret, widow of Henry VI, and Colleen Madden as Queen Elizabeth, who lost her husband and two of her three children to Richard's bloodlust.

The women give voice to the hatred and horror we feel at Richard's actions, with Arnold drifting through the play like a wraith bearing witness to tragedy. When Madden is told to prepare her one remaining child as Richard's new queen, her revulsion is palpable, a remarkable performance given that Madden and Ridge are married in real life.

The weight of Richard III, including a nearly two-hour first act, requires much from its audience. But the payback is as ample as the amount of blood spilled.

American Players Theatre's
Richard III continues through Sept. 28. For ticket information, call 608-588-2361 or visit americanplayers.org.


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