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Theater Shows
Richard II

A fast-paced production of a play with a timeless grasp on the politics of power.

centerstage reviewed this performanceReviewed by Centerstage!Go Chicago!

Athenaeum Theatre
2936 N. Southport Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657 Map This Place!Map it
Tickets: or (312) 902-1500


Related Info:
Official website

Runs January 31, 2013-March 16, 2013

Friday7:30 p.m.
Saturday7:30 p.m.
Thursday7:30 p.m.

reviewed performanceCenterstage Show Review
Reviewer: Alex Huntsberger
Sunday Feb 17, 2013

If Shakespeare’s “Richard III” is about the bloody subversion of statecraft, then his “Richard II” is like its mirror image. Instead of politics being thrown aside in favor of carnage, here the subtle art of a bloodless coup is put front and center. And while Literal backstabbing always seems more fun that the metaphorical kind, Two Pence Theatre Company’s new production puts on fine display this play’s timeless grasp on the politics of power. As portrayed by Michael Mercier, King Richard II is a toff: a frivolous if not un-empathetic man whose constant gutting of his subjects with ever-rising taxes to support his lavish lifestyle is starting to wear thin. But when his recently banished cousin, Bolingbroke (Jared Fernly), incites a populist rebellion against him, we suddenly find ourselves, somewhat reluctantly, in Richard’s corner. And Mercier shades his Richard wonderfully, allowing the ever-deepening nuance in his performance to contrast against Fernly’s brusque, no-nonsense Bolingbroke. Even as you nod and say, “Bolingbroke will obviously be a better king” you can’t help but feel for the poor fool Richard. Director Kathryn Walsh’s production has a Brechtian bareness to it that is actually quite thrilling. There is no scenery practically but some flats, a bench and a lot of colored chalk. The actors too are often visible in the wings, leaving us bereft of any realist illusions. This is perfectly suited to a play that finds the cold harsh light of day crashing through a king’s rose-colored glasses. If the production only had a little more room to breathe, it would be an unqualified success. In an attempt to capture the rushing whoosh of revolution (and also to achieve an intermission-free 90 minute run time), the pacing of the scenes is turned up to 11. Important moments and scenes are sometimes blown through, which can lead some of the actors to adopt a less-specific, more oratorical style of delivery. A little more of Richard’s poetry and a little less of Bolingbroke’s bluntness would make a very good show truly great.

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