September 13th, 2012

American Players Theatre: Richard III

As we often do, we made our trip to American Players Theatre a "double-header," and also took in the evening performance of Shakespeare's "Richard III," on Sunday evening the 9th.

We found it very interesting that, although this production was directed by James DeVita, it was about as different from APT's last production of "Richard III" (in which DeVita played Richard) as could reasonably be. Whereas the DeVita Richard was a low-keyed, confiding, and occasionally actually sympathetic Richard, in this production James Ridge is a ranting, laughing, all-out villain and seems to have a good time chewing the scenery, something we the audience enjoyed as well. The broadness of the characterization and Richard's glee in his plots almost make the first half of the show a black comedy. The second half, after Richard has come to the throne, is decidedly darker, and builds up to a big climax when Richard's murdered victims, having already troubled his dreams, appear as spectres to his fevered vision on Bosworth Field.

Georgie noted that this Richard in particular is a "crisis politician,"—manufacturing crises, and then stepping in to take charge, ruling through fear as when he stampedes the people of London into demanding he take the crown—an approach to governance still too much in use today.

Ridge was very well supported by his co-conspirator David Daniel as Buckingham, and by the formidable cast of women: Sarah Day as Cecily, the Dowager Duchess of York; Tracy Michelle Arnold as Margaret of Anjou, widow of Henry VI; Melissa Graves as Anne Neville, Richard's tortured Queen; and Colleen Madden as Elizabeth Woodville, the soon-to-be widowed wife of Richard's brother, King Edward IV. (It seemed to me that the women's roles were somehow larger in this production than the past, for some reason--.) Adding to the sinister aspects of the play was Eric Parks as Ratcliff, Richard's murdering henchman, coolly noting down his assignments as an uncredited DeVita does the actual dirty work.

The production's handsome Edwardian-era costumes are shown off well by the barren, rocky stage, which is transformed by props and pieces into a throne room, a prison, or a battlefield.

This was an interesting and engaging addition to our collection of Richards, and we were very glad to have seen it.

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So that I could write about it with some authority, I looked up the thirteen minute 'trailer' for "The Innocence of Muslims" that is the alleged reason for rioting and mayhem in the Mideast. I don't recommend it. It's not just bad, it's painfully bad. The actors (who assert that they were hired to shoot a different piece, and the anti-Islamic dialog was dubbed in afterward) should be ashamed. Even accepting that those aren't their voices (the badness of the dubbing is pretty obvious), what can be seen of the acting is either wooden or amatureishly histrionic. The camera work is clumsy, and the dialog we hear incredibly bad. You could hardly make up worse even intending to.

Unfortunately, all the slurs against the Prophet and Islam are intentionally in there. The trailer portrays Mohammad as a misbegotten, perverse, and degenerate criminal, and the Koran as a fraud. People of the Islamic faith would be correct to be upset with this scurrilous piece of crap--.

--Except that if some shit-stirrer hadn't helpfully re-dubbed the trailer into Arabic and circulated it around the Mideast, the thing would have quietly died the obscure and unlamented death it deserved.

And the response to this has been a grotesque over-reaction by the "Arab Street," as we saw previously in response to rumors of mistreatment of the Koran by American soldiers, or the threats to burn the Koran by jerk Pastor Terry Jones. Now, I'm sure that these provocations are being exploited by terrorists and anti-American agitators. The attack on the Embassy in Libya which killed a popular Ambassador with a history of supporting the Libyan revolution was almost certainly a planned attack using demonstrators as cover. I understand that people who have never, ever, lived in a country with a tradition of free expression might not understand what that means in the United States, and that the government does not actually, even tacitly, approve these idiocies.

However, I can't fathom what kind of sense of "justice" thinks that it's right to attack and punish any American, any Westerner, or any Christian they can catch because the culpable parties are out of reach. In these cases, I'm sure that what's really at work are thugs acting out their ignorant despite of everything Western, if not actually politically motivated.

I am a strong supporter of First Amendment rights. I accept that there are times when giving offense may be appropriate. However, I also believe that, when exercising your rights, you must do so responsibly, and with an eye toward the consequences of your actions. Therefore, I also say that pinheads such as the perpetrators of "The Innocence of Muslims" should STFU, and not heedlessly bring about the deaths of the truly innocent. Whining that embassy security measures are inadequate, as one of the filmmakers has done, does not excuse them of their complicity in this bloodshed.

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