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November 30, 1979 - Image 7

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-11-30

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S

GUESTAR TIST SERIES:

The Michigan Daily-Friday, November 30, 1979-Page 7

The 'Richard'

of

our discontent

By JOSHUA PECK
Directors may toy with Hamlet if
they must; surround Caesar with
ascist trappings; or make Macbeth a
ory horror. However, when it comes to
the last -of the cycle of the A
hakespearean histories, they must
draw the line: C(wmpronmise not the r unning
o the Crook Luck King, for some things ar,
sintpv marre'd.
The extent and nature of Richard's
Richard In
By William Shakespeare
Power Center, through Dec. 2
Richard III ................... Nicholas Pennell
Duke of Clarence ............Jon Hallquist
Lord Chamberlain ............. James Reynolds
Lady Anne Neville .......... Terryl Hallquist
Queen Elizabeth ............... Janice Reid
Duke of Buckingham., ............. Terry Caza
Edward IV .....................George Tsiros
Duchess of York .............. .Rebecca Stucki
Henry VII ...... ...........Gerry Biernat
Director, Richard Burgwin
physical deformities are of little con-
cern, but the tortured monarch must
have subtlety, tact, slyness, and secrets
(yes, even from his audience). If these
are neglected, the actor will sap the
power and richness from the play as
surely as Richard will meet death at
Bosworth.
Professional Nicholas Pennell,
heading an otherwise local cast for the
current Guest Artist production of
Richard, plays the lead a bit
dangerously. He has overcome one dif-
ficulty that used to manifest itself in
his work, but has compensated, alas,
with a converse difficulty: Over the
years at the Stratford Festival in On-
tario, the Englishman has often ren-
dered his various roles - Richard II,
Hamlet, Ariel - in such a low key and
understated fashion that much of the
richness and nuance of his charac-
terizations are lost on all but the most
sensitive and imaginative.
HERE, PENNELL renders Richard
quite boldly, but in such a transparent
way that, for example, his chats with
the audience border on being bereft of
mystery altogether. He would more
learly ' impress the stamp of
alevolence through a deadpan, reflec-
ive manner when Richard calls him-
elf "subtle, false, and treacherous,"
ather than the raised-eyebrow, lip-
3rcking reading he offers. Further, he
would be more thrilling with,/a cool-
headed attack on Buckingham for prac-
ticing witchcraft instead of shouting his
words in boisterous defiance.
Contffiry to reasonable convention,
Pennell plays Richard as more of a vic-
tim of the times rather than their
engineer. He frequently scurries across
stage or up stairs, looking like an incon-
tinent water rat. He seems to bring
about his ascent to the throne through
panic and desperate, barely controlled
action, and not, like' other Richards,
gently nudging his designs along and
demanding that his plans fall into
place.
Even though Pennell could have been
slyer and perhaps more authoritative,
the vicarious thrill of taking in many of
his monstrous machinations is not
squelched. At times, his Machiavellian
ardor carries him wittily through a
deceit - as when he masquerades as a
devout Christian to win the favor of the
onlooking townspeople - and at others
there seems to be some hidden purpose
lurking in his actions, as when he en-
treats his sister-in-law for permission
to wed his niece, her daughter. His
reasoning that marrying her will fur-
ther cement his possession of the crown
sounds a little hollow here. Has he
perhaps begun to develop a taste for
proflig'acy? For once, and for the bet-
ter,- the answer is never really
revealed.
PENNELL DOES beautiful work

with the physicalization of Richard,
staying well clear of the excess to which
duller actors have sometimes leapt.
There is something of a crook in his
arm, and his left heel scarcely e'er
touches the ground, but he is only a true
freak in a moral sense. Then again, his
moderation does not keep him from
conveying the air of haggard decay that
NICHOLAS
PENNELL

cry for a steed almost registers as a
disappointment, in that it signals the
end of the superbly saddening death-
dance.
The show's large cast exhibits
general competence, though few of the
performers stand out. Veterans Janice
Reid and Terry Caza, as Queen
Elizabeth and Buckingham, offer their
usual solid work, but are
unremarkable. Terry Hallquist ought
not to be intimidated so easily by her
crook-backed "beau," a lesson she
TS
might have learned from his mother,
handsomely played by Rebecca Stucki.
The Richard of Pennell (and
Burgwin) is not the same kind of man
as Olivier's, or Michael Moriarty's of
five years ago, or as Barrymore's. But
that this Plantagenet is less secretive
and commanding than some other har-
dly renders the interpretation wor-
thless. The words themselves are
among the most absorbing the Bard
wrote, and there is a sprinkling of lines
and moments that are' positively
enlightened by . this production's em-
phasis on decay and dissolution.
As for errors in judgement, this
Richard exhibits a goodly share of
those too: The playgoer who can bring
himself to overlook them can then gaze
unfettered into the mind of a literary
deity; the playgoer who insists on
studying them is here asked again to
join us pedants writing for the Daily Ar-
ts page.
THRILIND
MOTION PICTURE
(Double Trouble)
Redford Theater
Detroit
2 pm, Saturday, Dec. 1
for further information
call 538-44 76

Each day I have a good feeling
When my spirits soar to the ceiling.
It's the League's fine fare
And the people who're there
That to me are 'specially appealing.
Q.M.B.
melvlMichigan
Next to Hill Auditorium
Located in the heart of the campus.
it is the heart of the campus...

CAFETERIA HOURS;
11:30-1:15
5:00-7:15
SNACK BAR
7:15-4:00
Send your League Limerick to:
Manager, Michigan League
227 South Ingalls
You will receive 2 free dinner
tickets if your limerick is used in
one of our ads.

Nicholas Pennell as Richard III in The Guest Artist Series's current rendition of
one of Shakespeare's greatest plays.

stands as the centerpiece of the whole
production. There is a sleaziness and
repulsiveness about his bearing and his
manner that powerfully complements
director Richard Brugwin's vision of
the crumbling Plantagenet dynasty.
The Power Center stage is awash
with dry, dying leaves. A large crucifix
whose appearance punctuates a few of
the play's scenes bears a corpus so
withered that its features are scarcely
distinguishable. The costumes are
marked by discord and ruination;
Richard's, especially, are flecked or
streaked with filth.
While the master plan of the produc-
tion is outstandingly conceived and
executed, instances of misdirection
with regard to smaller-scale issues and
details are abundant. As he did with
last summer's Much Ado About
Nothing, Burgwin has taken unfair ad-
vantage of a scene with a slightly
lighter tone than the rest, here marring
Clarence's murder with Keatonesque
antics that serve only to obscure some
of the play's most stirring dialogue.
As he has too often before, the direc-
tor has overlooked such minor points as
the performance and line delivery of
actors with small speaking roles. Pen-
nell speaks in his native English accent,
and most of the experienced supporting
players come up with a reasonable fac-
simile, but the bit players sound like
farmers from Indiana. If Burgwin was
afraid that (U,, English accent would
make his messengers sound like

noblemen, he ought to have considered
a Cockney patois as an alternative.
Directors' personal little flourishes
and embellishments have their place in
new treatments of the Bard, but when
they bury a scene in overstatement,
like the Londoners' chanting the hun-
chback's name after his successful
conniving for their support, or when
they only offer vulgarity - like George
Tsiros' obscene hacking as an emotion-
less Edward - they become problems.
More grievous than any of these
small matters, and perhaps more so
than Pennell's bluntness, is Burgwin's
choice for the pivotal role of Richmond.
Second only to Richard's role in impor-
tance, if not in length, Richmond is a
man of valor and decency, the hope of
England, the bringer of peace, and the
successor, in the final scene, to the
throne. Gerry Biernat plays the part
with all the vision and majesty of a frat
boy screaming for the ayatollah's
blood, and without a trace of accent to'
boot.
Stranger still is the casting in a
smaller part of the very gifted Folkert
Schmidt, who undoubtedly could have
capably handled Richmond.
If this Richard has anything over the
typical professional production, it is the
magnificent battle scene in the final
act. Jeffrey Guyton's staging combines
seeming dozens of stylized one-on-one
confrontations into a whole that is at
once carefully choreographed and ap-
propriately chaotic. The king's famous

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