richard iii

The Folger Theatre has given us a  fine production of Shakespeare’s play about the rise and fall of an evil king .  Director Robert Richmond happily does not, with the exception of the costume of one character. try to set it in a more modern time period (a practice which I often find distracting).  Unusual for the Folger, the play is done in the round.  At least as strikingly, trap doors are used to dispose of the many corpses, adding a certain stylization to the murders.  I think the greatest source of this production’s success is the compelling performance of Drew Cortese as Richard.  He superbly portrays Richard as cold, cynical, and cruel,  with a great virility of mind  yet far from invulnerable.  Another standout is Naomi Jacobson as Queen Margaret, wife of the the Lancasterian, Henry VI whom the Yorks (Richard’s family) overthrew.  Ms. Jacobson plays her as  a sort of fury and her curses prove effective. The tall, slender, elegant Julia Motyka as Queen Elizabeth, wife of  Richard’s brother Edward IV,  is regal but protrays anger  more effectively than sorrow even after her two young sons are murdered.  Politics is here a series of machinations in which charisma, vice, and folly predominate.  So the Folger is providing a tonic counterpoint to all the monuments and neoclassical architecture in the nation’s capital.  The play runs until March 9, 2014.