Chicago Theater Review: RICHARD III (Wayward Productions at the Den Theatre)

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by Erika Mikkalo on May 28, 2013

in Theater-Chicago

HAND IN HAND TO HELL’S ANGELS

Deceit and destruction reign in Wayward Productions’ hell-bent for leather staging of Richard III, which has been reimagined as biker gang mayhem in a bar named London. This reinterpretation of Shakespeare has extended its run from the Underground Wonder Bar; given the deft direction of Carlo Lorenzo Garcia and committed performances from his cast, an additional extension of its current run would be beyond thrashin’ cool.

Erika Mikkalo's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Wayward Productions' "Richard III."

Anachronistic productions of Shakespeare, and of Richard III in particular, are not new. Ian McKellen appeared in a film version which was based on an earlier stage production setting the Lancasters and Yorks in Nazi-ruled England of the 1930s (it toured Europe for six years to sell-out crowds before being adapted to film). This being said, the grisly schemes at War of the Roses’ end seamlessly translate to the deadly antics of the amoral power-hungry hedonists, now drinking and riding their lives away at the Den Theatre. They are still Richard’s gang, except now they have become The Warlocks Motorcycle Club.

Erika Mikkalo's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Wayward Productions' "Richard III."

This Richard – ably portrayed by Garcia – is not a hunchback, but his character’s inner deformity shines darkly as he springs from false seduction to fratricide with bonhomie as grim as it is glib. Buckingham, Ratcliffe, et al, are splendidly costumed by David Mitchell: The gangs’ colors bear insignia of roses, red and white, with the henchmen’s’ names sewn on the chest of their denim vests.

Erika Mikkalo's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Wayward Productions' "Richard III."

The guys are rightly fierce with shaven heads, unkempt beards, extensive tattoos and hair-trigger tempers. However, the really winning minutes come from the “ladies”: Brittany Ellis – looking fierce in Mitchell’s shredded Union Jack midriff tee — plays ferocious biker-babe Queen Margaret, and Natalie DiCristofano rants and curses with apt fervor as the jaggedly delirious Queen Elizabeth.

Erika Mikkalo's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Wayward Productions' "Richard III."

The reference to the discovery of the real-life Richard’s remains beneath a parking lot gets such rim shot-worthy placement that it is difficult to avoid wondering if Wayward worked backwards, using the archeological event as inspiration for the biker conceit. There are lapses in verisimilitude – Why would a biker bar outside of Pittsburgh not display Steelers’ paraphernalia? Would the Warlocks really listen to the Velvet Underground? – but these are mere seconds of distraction in a fun and dedicated production retelling horrific events.

Erika Mikkalo's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Wayward Productions' "Richard III."

Erika Mikkalo's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of Wayward Productions' "Richard III."photos by Ashley Rose

Richard III
Wayward Productions & Chicago Fusion Theatre
at the Den Theatre, 1333 N Milwaukee Ave.
scheduled to end on June 29, 2013
for tickets, call (866) 468-3401
or visit http://www.waywardproductions.org

for info on this and other Chicago Theater,
visit http://www.TheatreinChicago.com

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