The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington DC unveils a new staging of Shakespeare's Richard II, about the flawed, ineffectual monarch whose actions isolate his supporters, beginning Nov. 7.
Director Gerald Freedman sets the action in a world that suggests 1930s England, the time when Edward VIII abdicated. "Edward's lack of ruling instincts and judgment seem to be so like Richard," Freedman said in production notes. "At first, this was for me a way into the play, of looking at the text. The more I went into the life of not only Edward VIII, but all the Windsors, I found it astonishing."
Official press opening is Nov. 12. Performances continue to Dec. 31.
Wallace Acton, a two-time Helen Hayes Award-winner, is the ruler who realizes too late that he "wasted time." Acton played the title role in The Shakespeare Theatre's Peer Gynt in 1997-98.
The company also includes Andrew Long as Bolingbroke, Tana Hicken as the Duchess of York, David Sabin as Duke of York and Ted Van Griethuysen as John of Gaunt. Designers are John Ezell (creating a set that suggests "the landscape of Richard's mind," according to the director), Lawrence Casey (costumes), Mary Jo Dondlinger (lights). Robert Waldman composed new music for the production.
Freedman is the international director and educator who is the former artistic director of The Public Theater in New York. He staged the Off-Broadway hit, Hair, and scores of other plays and musicals. He was the first American invited to direct at The Old Globe in London (Richard Broome's The Antipodes or The World Upside Down in summer 2000). Freedman is currently dean of the School of Drama at the North Carolina School of the Arts.
Shakespeare's Richard II is written entirely in verse, and is the first in Shakespeare's second cycle of history plays.
Tickets are $14.25-$62. The Shakespeare Theatre is at 450 7th Street NW between D and E Streets. For information, call (202) 547-1122, or visit the web site at www.shakespearedc.org.
— By Kenneth Jones