PROVO — Take bucket loads of talent (and blood), bushels of fun (and blood), and . . . well, blood, and you’ve got Grassroots Shakespeare Company’s Richard III. The Bard gets proper treatment in the hands of these players in Provo, who masterfully stir up a wickedly rambunctious take on Shakespeare’s historical tale of the Duke who schemes, seduces, and murders his way onto England’s throne.
Grassroots presents Shakespeare the way it was intended, with minimal staging, little rehearsal, no director, and a great homespun feel. The audience is encouraged to be rowdy, talking back to the actors on stage, cheering for the heroes, and booing for the villains. A live band also played through most of the production, setting the tone for each scene.
As the show’s protagonist, the dastardly Richard was played by Davey Morrison Dillard, whose crackling, impish energy engaged me from the start clear to the finish. He was a deliciously diabolical leading man, and I loved to hate him. Such is the magic of the charismatic villain that at one point he had the audience yelling, “kill him,” one second and “kiss him,” the next. Buckingham, his fellow conspirator, was played by Leviticus Brown, an enormous talent. Brown played his part so deftly that the audience verbally mourned his death at the latter end of the play, even though he had been nothing but despicable. These two men were definite crowd favorites, and are delightful to watch.
Every actor on this stage was wonderfully talented, from Cherie Julander as a delightfully eldritch Queen Margaret, to Jessamyn Svensson as Queen Elizabeth. Svensson was able to conjure pure, genuine grief on stage while balancing comedy with a grace befitting a veteran actress. Also, Jason Fullmer played a slew of characters with sharp comedic timing and jovial energy.
The show flies by at a pace that makes one forget the cold while sitting in the beautiful setting of the Castle Amphitheater. Actors whiz on and off stage, getting their message across and then moving on to the next, never dragging along, which is refreshing, especially for one of Shakespeare’s meatier productions.
As I have mentioned, there is a great deal of gore in this production, so it is not for the faint of heart. Groundlings (audience members who stand in front), were often at times sprayed with (machine washable) blood, and their reactions added to the fun of the show.
I am now a huge fan of this little theater company, and plan to see many of their productions in the future. I am planning on returning to this show and bringing along as many friends as I can to see it, as it is definitely worth the trip.