The highs and lows average to solid in ISC’s Richard III on until the 24th July at Griffith Park. Impresario David Melville assumes the mantle and a couple of other positions surrounded by an often amazing cast and disturbing electrification. Director Melissa Chalsma codistills the original and Colley Cibber‘s once-popular adaptation amplifying the action but wisely restoring some of Cibber’s deletions. Melville forgoes the hump for a limp, is convincing when raging and scheming, and less-so when sweet-talking and seducing. Amid the new faces is the welcome return of company veteran Lorenzo Gonzalez whose own Richard dazzled at Barnsdall Park in 2005.
There’s a lot of ground to cover in the first half, mostly with corpses. Not short by any means, it feels rushed and it is often a strain to figure out who is doing what to whom and why. With so much real and implied gore, we wonder if nibs of the Merrie Olde were bound by any laws at all. Post intermission fares better especially in a superb scene redolent of the Trojan Women in which exhausted ladies of war-ravaged houses contemplate a grisly future. Bernadette Sullivan, Mary Goodchild, Aisha Kabia, and Kalean Ung swim this 4×100-m hatred relay brilliantly and it is a good job that it was part of the restoration. That anchor leg is a pipterino and further marks Ung as one to watch.
ISC is rightly proud of the number of people it reaches through the summer fest. But, pursuing and serving that metric isn’t free. The kit grows every season. 2016 features a large lighting rig courtesy of a foundation grant, more microphones, more speakers, a NASA-sized mixing board, ever fancier costumes, and stage fog. Some of the tech does afford the leeway to cast actors with differing levels of vocal preparation but it grows farther from the no-frills aesthetic the company brought to LA back in 2002 and preserved until the past few seasons. Most intrusive is the addition of a loud rock band that strikes up to crush the magic the moment a scene ends. The Duke of Buckingham pleads with King Richard, “Give me some little breath, some pause, dear lord.” We know where he’s coming from but we too aren’t requited. There’s no time to savor the words because a quartet of the play’s supporting cast occasionally supplemented by Melville shred the air with guitar and drum. To be fair, most of the crowd ate it up.
ISC takes care to survey its audiences and perhaps this is what it has to do to keep people coming to the Old Zoo. The festival audience could be of the growing belief that silence of any kind is not to be trusted. Maybe we’ll see two distinct sets of offerings in the future: Old school ISC indoors at its studio and a flash-bang summer season for the Internet generation at Griffith Park.
The Tempest begins July 30th.
Adapted by Independent Shakespeare Co. based on the work of Colley Cibber
Begins Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26 Then plays Wednesday – Sunday until July 24
Performances at 7:00 pm at The Old Zoo, Griffith Park
FREE (donations gratefully accepted)