I’ve had a chance to see Richard III in the Bowmer Theatre and recommend it highly. I might add that though I’m a longtime OSF supporter, I had yet to see a Libby Appel-directed production of which I could wholeheartedly approve. Indeed, I viewed her recent Macbeth, which opened the New Theatre a couple of seasons ago, as arguably the most embarrassingly ill-conceived production I had ever seen on stage, with her previous Hamlet running a distant second. Appel’s productions occasionally come off to me as such overly cerebral attempts at “high-concept” artsy-fartsy, that they end up just plain lacking in good theatrical sense; so striving to be Important and Original that she’s forgotten that her first job as a director is to tell a whomping good story.
Appel’s 2005 Richard III, however, is both lucid and highly entertaining. She does an interesting recurring motif with the thorny Margaret that I liked very much, and the set and costume designs support the overall vision of the production—think “bottled spider” and you’ll have it—with dramatic intensity.
But the foremost reason to see this production is the unbelievably dynamic and athletic performance of James Newcomb as the Bottled Spider himself, scurrying and swinging about the stage, his ever-widening web, on metal crutches that begin to take on the truly creepy appearance of elongated arachnid appendages. (Shelob, make way!) Indeed, this is a performance so fantastically physical that the only thing I can compare it to, Newcomb’s fluent vocal performance notwithstanding, is one of Chaplin’s or Keaton’s silent film olympiads.
I fell madly in love—this from an arachnaphobe of the first magnitude.