Directors have, in the past, created "new" evenings of Shakespeare by combining the three parts of Henry VI with Richard III, which follow the same stretch of English history and have many characters in common. Now, experimental director Andrei Serban, well known for mucking about with the Bard's works, is presenting his own conflation of this quartet of bloody history plays, calling it Richard 3.
And people wanted to see it. The production was first announced to run at La MaMa Off-Off-Broadway, Oct. 27-Nov. 4. But before it even opened, La MaMa extended it two weeks to Nov. 18. There will be no further extenstions, however; the production will end on Sunday.
Most audiences are familiar with the Richard III seen in the play that bears his name — a ruthless, hunchbacked murderer who knocks down brothers and nephews in his pursuit of the crown. The seeds of his villainy, though, are sewn in Henry VI, where his character is psychologically formed as the despised and mocked young Richard, Duke of Glocester, son of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York.
Perhaps responding to the tenor of current event, Serban's production appears to be focused on the role of evil in our world. "Evil, endemic in the time and space of history," read press materials for the show, "manifests itself on the face of the earth, slips away and seems to disappear, until its next dawn appears on the unavoidable horizon... The infernal history marching rolls on, the drivers changing at the wheel, and evil is its catalyst."
Richard 3 stars Sekou Campbell, Kevin Cohen, Aron Epstein, Cornel Cabara, Thomas Gissendanner, Jason Griffin, Kyle Haden, Jeanne Harris, Krassin Iordanov, Haerry Kim, Benjamin Masur, Anne Penner, Chip Persons, Richard Stein, Elijah Vanaver, Anjali Vashi, Sheryle Wells, Annie Yim and Samir Younis. The Romanian-born Serban first directed at La MaMa in 1969. He is known to recent New York audiences from his Public Theater stagings of Cymbeline and Hamlet, both starring Liev Schreiber.
Tickets are $20. La MaMa is located at 74A E. 4th Street in Manhattan. For more information, call (212) 475-7710.
—By Robert Simonson