Richard III is one of the great villains in the literary canon, and one of William Shakespeare's most desired roles for actors. So the success of any production of "Richard III" rests squarely on the humpback, crowned head and withered arm of the actor who plays the title role. Richard appears in almost every scene, and he is duplicitous in the extreme, ranging from the conniving schemer to the unrelenting psychopath "? sometimes in the same scene.
In the Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park production of "Richard III," the reliable Michael Gibbons convincingly plays Richard, weighted somewhat toward the psychopath. Gibbons is both fawning and impudent before Lady Anne as he charms her into becoming his wife, while she is on the way to bury her husband, whom Richard has murdered. Richard amazes even himself in this scene.
Gibbons portrays him as insidiously gleeful when he orders the murder of his brother, George, whom the killers dump unceremoniously into a butt of malmsey wine. Gibbons makes Richard vicious when he falsely accuses Hastings of treason, in order to have him killed. He is piously ingratiating toward the Lord Mayor and citizens of London, who are conned by Buckingham, one of Richard's henchmen, into imploring Richard to become king.
Gibbons is indisputably direct when he orders the murders of the young princes of Wales and York. And his Richard inexorably wears down Queen Elizabeth in his attempt to marry her daughter. This was after Richard had Lady Anne, to whom he was by now inconveniently married, bumped off.
Richard's problem is that he cannot do anything right. When Buckingham comes around to claim the earldom of Hereford, which Richard had promised him, the now King Richard III is so threatening that Buckingham says he is fleeing to Wales while he still has his head on his shoulders. With friends like Richard, who needs enemies?
OSP artistic director Kathryn McGill directs this generally well-acted production, and her staging is always clear, if not particularly inspired. "Richard III" is a long play with many characters. McGill has prudently cut the script and brings the show in at two and a half hours. You know the end is near when Richard cries his famous lines: "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"
McGill goes heavy-handed, however, in the scene on Bosworth Field, where Richard and Richmond are visited by the ghosts of Richard's victims on the night before the last battle of the Wars of the Roses. The actors playing the ghosts are clad in white sheets, and the dialogue is recorded and overengineered. Inexplicably, their words are cut to Richmond, although the actor who plays him is onstage during the scene.
Notable among the cast are Jon Haque, Rob Gallavan, Hal Kohlman, Rich Bailey, J. Shane McClure, Taylor Davis, Jennifer Farley and Sue Ellen Reiman. Costumes are by Robert A. Pittenridge.