Extra Bonus Adventure: Richard III from Wayward Productions at the Den

This week has been a whirlwind of activity, and I am honestly exhausted, so I may not do this remarkable work of theater justice, but I’m going to try.

First a little back story; I do not like Richard III, it seems to me on paper to just be a lot of vile people being vile to each other and anyone even remotely likeable gets murdered, violently. As seemingly ancient royal rivalries don’t tend to mean much to me the brutality of this play always just felt a bit arbitrary. But director/star Carlo Lorenzo Garcia has made the crazy and brilliant choice to set the play in a biker gang, one of the few settings where random brutality makes emotional sense.

Biker Shakespeare on paper seems like a joke, and parts of the adaptation are funny, but the laughs are intentional, and they make the carnage all the more terrifying when it comes, seemingly out of nowhere.

The language is sort of half updated. For the most part Shakespeare’s script is intact, with a few well placed obscenities and they brilliant replacing of “my man” or the ubiquitous “my lord.”  And a truly perfect closing line that Shakespeare I’m sure would have written if he knew where Richard III would end up buried.

The real brilliance of this production comes down to the ensemble. It’s large, which is so rare in storefront theater, and committed. I believed these people loved and hated each other, even if the exact reasons as to why were always a little lost on me.Garcia is a lot more attractive than my traditional image of Richard III, but he manages to convince me at once that he is crazy, while believable as trustworthy to Buckingham (Jude Roche, who is my favorite Vin-Diesel-look-a-like/Shakespearean actor), though of course he’s wrong. The women were also amazing, strong, fully formed characters, which is not easy given this text.

This was a wonderfully intimate show, so intimate in fact that, because we chose to sit in the front row, and I was on the end, at 4 separate occasions I was asked direct questions by the cast. At one point the King seemed to be waiting for me to answer, it was awesome, and a bit intimidating.

Unfortunately the show closes in like 2 days, but if you can you should totally go.

It runs through Saturday at the Den Theater at 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave

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