I wasted time and now doth time waste me” laments the deposed and incarcerated monarch of Shakespeare’s “Richard II, ” the Bard’s most lyrical history play receiving a physically intimate yet emotionally unsentimental production from Actors Revolution Theatre. But if director Robert G. Anderson’s modern-dress production—moody and starkly picturesque—is perfectly serviceable and sometimes more, the real interest here lies in a noteworthy interpretation of the title role by actor and ART Artistic Director Jeff Radue, ensuring that this revival doth not waste its audience’s time.Richard is typically presented as a spendthrift simpleton, an undeserving golden boy commanding a governance built more on appearance, privilege and entitlement than on merit. Certainly there is some fun with that traditional approach here: this Richard parades around in a red velvet smoking jacket, flaunts his Hermès-like scarf like it was a scepter and surrounds himself with a billionaire boys’ club band of pink shirt-wearing courtiers. But by the time those famous third-act speeches of self-pitying discovery ensue (“Am I not king?”), when it is inevitable that Richard will soon exchange his “large kingdom for a little grave,” most performers will shift sharply towards self-introspection mode, peppering their verse-speaking with ponderous pauses to find the grace in the fallen man and ensure that we view his death as a tragedy. Not so with Radue, a naturally charming performer whose irritable, unsympathetic and atypical reading involves playing each and every one of the script’s violent mood swings with full abandon to the bitter end. Never losing his grip on an intellectual through-line that rationalizes Richard’s upstaging bits as engineered theatrics more than mental turmoil (satisfactorily explaining Act V’s often difficult insanity bit), this reading also highlights one of the play’s more contemporary themes: the divide between the private and public persona when it comes to politics. This Richard may not earn our full sympathies, but he puts on a lovely floor-show of desperate theatricality worthy of attention. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
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