Brilliant performances by the title and principal characters weren’t quite enough to bridge the gap between medieval England and the cabaret world of Weimar Germany in a production of “Richard III.”
The Reduxion Theatre version did succeed in using the seductive but disturbing atmosphere of pre-Hitler Germany to make one of William Shakespeare’s grimmest historical plays a bit more engaging.
Especially effective were a ‘20s-style dance number some spectators were invited to participate in, and one after intermission equating joining the circus, represented by costumed revelers, with death.
Also adding, at least marginally, to the production’s palpable atmosphere of doom and destruction, was a late segment during which choral voices off-stage powerfully condemned the title character.
But its chief asset was the performances of main characters, many in multiple roles, although even their efforts didn’t make it easy, or sometimes even possible, to follow the plot’s many complications.
Wearing a strange harness to deal with a deformed arm instead of a back-hump, Rex Daugherty was magnetic and monstrous, but not histrionic, as the duke who murders and manipulates his way to the throne.
Pacing himself well, Daugherty kept everyone off balance with his ability to be both hypocritical and threatening, not only in dialogue with others, but in monologues with himself and the audience.
A Washington, D.C., actor and teacher who grew up in Oklahoma City and Moore, Daugherty has performed at the The Folger Theater, The Kennedy Center and off-Broadway.
Jeremy Lister supplied a touching human dimension as the Duke of Clarence, who can’t believe, until the very end, that his brother Richard has sent him to the Tower of London to be murdered.
Lister was also solid in a second role as the Earl of Richmond, the king’s military nemesis, who joins him on stage in a haunting getting-ready-for-bed and dream scene the night before their final battle.