Richard III, Viscera Design Ltd., at City Lit Theater Company. From the instant that the lights abruptly assume rainbow hues, accompanied by an eerie violin as Shakespeare’s protagonist peers from behind an arras before slinking in, we know this will be no ordinary two-planks-and-a-passion play. Staged by a company specializing in technical design, this Richard III is dominated by director Anthony Churchill’s sound design and multimedia images. Richard’s courtship of Anne Neville over her late husband’s coffin, for example, is backed by a dirge that segues into a tango. Later the ghosts of Richard’s victims appear silhouetted on a sheet, and their speeches are rendered in booming voice-overs against the strains of a merry gavotte.
Churchill’s high-tech approach makes for intriguing spectacle but often at the expense of the text. And Timothy Tamisea’s portrayal of Richard as a nerdy preadolescent diminishes the enormity of his villainous deeds, as it does his defeat on Bosworth Field, here reduced to a battle of words as the generals rally the troops. Though the other actors have their moments–notably Tippi Thomas as Elizabeth–the viability of Churchill’s concept isn’t supported by this interesting but flawed experiment.