By Sandra Abdelmalak/Garden Grove Journal
Most people expect to enjoy a theatrical performance, what they don’t expect is to become a part of it.
While watching Shakespeare Orange County’s production of “Richard III,” directed by Carl Reggiardo at the Festival Amphitheatre on 12762 Main St. in Garden Grove, you have the unique experience of becoming an accomplice of the title character as he schemes his way to the crown.
From the outset, the power-hungry Richard (played by John Walcutt) literally creeps across the stage, limping with his oversized leg as he sneaks a seat at the throne briefly before his brother, King Edward IV (played by William Gillean) makes his entrance.
With the throne constantly at center stage, there is no mistaking what is at the heart of this play, or what is in Richard’s heart.
“I am determined to become a villain,” exclaims Richard, quite frankly.
Walcutt, with his humorous asides to the audience, gives them a unique insider’s look into each one of Richard’s plots. Richard is a man of many faces and he fools almost everyone with his enticing words, but with Walcutt we get a chance to see who he really is. And as it turns out, he has quite a sense of humor.
Only Richard would court a woman (Lady Anne Neville played by Amanda Zarr) as she’s on her way to bury the husband that he killed. Exaggerating the irony, Walcutt charms Lady Anne and the audience, as he looks away to force a tear to his eyes before falling down on his knees in front of Lady Anne and proclaiming his change of heart.
However, Walcutt is not the only one that draws laughter. Michael Fountain and Garret Schweighauser are hilarious while debating whether or not to kill Richard’s brother, Duke of Clarence (played by Nicholas Thurkettle) as they hold him down with their swords, release him, and then hold him down again. Reggiardo not only stresses the war between families with a set full of banners of white and red roses, but he also pays close attention to the war within the self.
And let’s not forget that this is a tragedy. No matter what plane flew over the outdoor theater or car drove by outside, all eyes were glued on Queen Margaret (played by Terrie Ciranna) as she commanded the stage with her ominous presence. There is no overlooking this overthrown queen as she haunts everyone with her curses and throws her bloody hands up into the air. Even the heartless Richard shudders.
Then, of course, there are plenty of murders to go around. And with each, comes a trail of mourners, including a heart-wrenching performance by Eveyln Carol Case (who plays Queen Elizabeth) as she stretches herself across the floor in tears at the death of her sons.
And soon, even Richard’s conscience catches up with him. Reggiardo thinks up a clever way for Richard to be haunted by all of those he’s murdered, and be assured, Richard is not the only one who’s shaken. Overall, this production blends together tragedy and humor to create quite a memorable production that includes action-packed sword fights, thunderous sound effects, and eerie lighting. Even the slight character confusion inherent in this play (and perhaps not helped with the double casting) is a minor factor in an overall satisfying production.
“Richard III” will be showing at 8:15 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Festival Amphitheatre until Aug. 4. General admission is $34 and $32 for seniors and students. Tickets can be purchased at the SOC website at www.shakespeareoc.org