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A CurtainUp Review
Richard III

The true horror of watching Richard III should be the recognition that what we see is actually a visit to our very own innermost abyss..— Thomas Ostermeier, Artistic Director of the Schaubuhne Berlin and this production's director. —
Lars Eidinger in the title role
Richard III as rockstar? Indeed he is in the Schaubuhne Berlin Theatre's production helmed by Thomas Ostermeier as part of the current Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theater. Anyone longing to see Richard III staged with all cylinders blazing and a hard rock edge, certainly got it in this adaptation. Performed In German with English surtitles, Shakespeare's early tragedy has never caught fire with so much sizzle.

The familiar play's new twists doesn't begin with Richard's now-is-the-winter-of- our-discontent speech but with a synopsis of the Henry VI plays projected via teleprompter. If you can't digest all the chronicled history a la Shakespeare, Ostermeier uses this device to clue the audience in on the civil strife that has kept the Plantagenets and Lancastrians at royal loggerheads during the War of the Roses

The dar feel of this history-heavy prologue lightens up when the York family enter and have a rip-roaring celebration, complete with confetti bursting from faux guns. Among the clan, of course, is the titular character (Lars Eidinger), hobbling on stage with his club-foot and humped back.

So what's all the hullabaloo about? Well, the Yorks are celebrating their battle victory and relishing the peace it promises to their war-scarred clan. But, oddly, Richard is in a funk at this family celebration, a wall flower at the party. This dramatically changes when he moves center-stage and cradles the microphone in his hand to intone the play's opening soliloquy. Eidinger is mesmerizing as he snarls out the long rhetorical speech (“This is the winter of our discontent”. . .), only pausing to spit, curse, or cunningly smile.

Marius von Mayenburg's translation and adaptation has given the play new prosaic contours, and Eidinger's Richard gives them edge. The story is down to the bone. Consequently, some of the female characters have slighter parts than in the original text. It makes for an obviously testosterone-loaded production, with the anti-hero Richard coming squarely to the fore.

Although our protagonist likes to play the Puritan now and then, this is no Puritanical production. In fact, in several scenes Richard strips completely to the buff. Whether you personally agree or disagree with this directorial decision, Richard's nudity here does mesh with Ostermeier's audacious vision.

If pressed for the most memorable scene, I would say that it comes near the play's end when our anti-hero is preparing for battle at Bosworth Field. Richard has just finished his meal and bizarrely creates a paste from the scraps on his plate and applies it to his face like an actor putting on grease paint. Sound strange? Well, it gets even stranger. He then uses his plate as a pseudo-mirror to catch a glimpse of himself. And what he — and we —see is the spitting image of a white death mask.

The ten-member cast, some who perform double and triple roles, do an admirable job at portraying their characters. But no question this is Eidinger's star turn from the moment he haltingly walks onto the capacious stage at the Harvey Theater. Eidinger seems as if he were born to play Shakespeare's hell-hound. Indeed, he portrays the villain with gusto, grit, and comic flair.

The major drawback to this production is its all-too-brief. One ne can only hope that Ostermeier returns to New York soon with another inspired venture.

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Richard III by William Shakespeare
Translation and adaptation by Marius von Mayenburg?Schaubühne Berlin
Directed by Thomas Ostermeier
In German with English titles
Cast: Lars Eidinger (Richard III), Moritz Gottwald (Buckingham), Eva Meckbach (Elizabeth), Jenny Konig (Lady Anne), Sebastian Schwarz (Hastings, Brackenbury, Ratcliff), Robert Beyer (Catesby, Margaret, First Murderer), Thomas Bading (Edward, Lord Mayor of London, Second Murderer), Christoph Gawenda (Clarence, Dorset, Stanley, Prince of Wales as puppet), Laurenz Laufenberg (Rivers, York as puppet), Thomas Witte (Drummer).
Sets: Jan Pappelbaum
Video: Sébastien Dupouey
Dramaturgy: Florian Borchmeyer
Lighting design: Erich Schneider
Costumes: Florence von Gerkan in collaboration with Ralf Tristan Sczesny
Music: Nils Ostendorf
Video: Sébastien Dupouey
Lighting: Erich Schneider
Dramaturgy: Florian Borchmey
Fight Director: Rene Lay
BAM Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton St., Brooklyn. Tickets start at $35. For more information on tickets, phone 718.636.4100 or visit
From 10/11/17; closing 10/14/17.
All performances @ 7:30pm
Running time: 2 hours; 30 minutes with no intermission
Reviewed by Deirdre Donovan based on press performance of 10/11/17

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