Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by J.R. Sullivan
"What must the king do now? Must he submit?" King Richard II laments as he struggles to hold on to the last remnants of his reign in the midst of an inevitable coup. The Pearl Theatre Company
's production of Richard II
(through December 24) honorably attempts to sustain the dramatic tension of Shakespeare's text throughout the course of the story, which at times moves slowly. The slow pace, however, does not conceal the importance of events as they occur, or their imminent consequences.
The titular king in this classic tale of a nation in the midst of political upheaval is a complex and mysterious character; an intelligent and witty ruler at the outset, as circumstances unravel he increasingly sees being king as the very essence of his identity. This sense of an unraveling personality is expertly played by Sean McNall. A Pearl company member, McNall possesses a smooth baritone and fluid body language ideally suited to portraying Shakespeare's descending ruler.
Grant Goodman—who plays the usurper, Henry Bolingbroke—speaks with regal vocal cords, but doesn't quite bring across the psychological nuances behind his character's motivations. Only six of the twelve-person cast are company members, including Robin Leslie Brown and Carol Schultz, who finely play the Duchess of Gloucester and the Bishop of Carlisle, respectively. Guest performers Dan Kremer (John of Gaunt) and Bill Christ (Duke of York) also give strong performances as men of integrity.
Ultimately, Richard II
is a story of one man's fall—a political and personal martyrdom—one that forces him to lay bare his soul and discover that beyond his divine station he is simply a man.
(Photo: Gregory Costanzo)