There’s no rule that says young actors can’t tackle the Bard, but in Strawdog’s spartan, highlights-reel take on the biggest King Dick of them all, the company’s youthful charges take on more mutton than they can chew.
At the very least, the disfigured Richard must convince us that his self-loathing, spurned stabs at love and his vitriolic envy of his brother’s ascension to the throne are confounding enough to turn him into a sovereign serial killer. Here, Roberts’s lightly sketched feral rendering (sans hunchback and draped in a rakish black designer tux) barely rises above a one-note scowl. And the conspiratorial tryst with hatchet-man Buckingham (Zoccoli, whose physically looming presence nearly eclipses his sire’s ire)—key to Richard’s devolution—fails to create any symbiotic chemistry. That goes for the rest of the cast as well (with the notable exceptions of Avery’s and Lawfer’s true-to-life Elizabeth and Clarence, respectively), whose affected, spotlight-grabbing line deliveries eschew the ensemble dynamic that’s critical to Shakespeare’s distended plot (which is gutted here to unfortunate effect).
Dimond and his set and costume designers (Joe Schermoly, Nikki Delhomme) also fail to cut it, with a spartan staging that clumsily hitches a traditional enactment to a clichéd rock & roll storefront spin: intermittent monster-rock guitar; garish black-leather trenchcoats and Euro-trash formal apparel; a bunkerlike set caged by peaked doors and sightline-blocking pillars that could’ve been lit to more horrifyingly existential effect. By the time those doors are dismantled for the ghosts of Richard’s victims and a strobed, red-lit battle scene, we’d have gladly traded this kingdom in for a horse—or at least a flagon of sack to numb our saddle sores.