Richard III, played by a woman, is seen from the back, advancing with a sword on a young Black man. The scene is lit with a greenish hue.
Richard III at Promethean Theatre Ensemble Credit: Steven Townshend/Distant Era

Steve Scott directs a storefront production of Shakespeare’s wallow into the nature of unadorned power-lust and demagoguery. With a minimal set—a couple benches, steps with a recess to indicate the space for a throne—and little in the way of choreography or any other theatrical gimmickry, Promethean Theatre Ensemble leaves the Bard’s words to work their hard magic. Cameron Feagin commands the stage in the titular role, playing Richard as a self-aware villain, profoundly flawed but unable to stop himself from conniving his way to the prize he’s convinced himself should be his, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Richard III
Through 6/25: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM; Factory Theater, 1623 W. Howard, prometheantheatre.org, $30 ($25 seniors/$15 students).

Putting on a play about a tyrant at this moment may either be too on the nose or just timely, depending on your point of view, but in either case, I was moved listening to Feagin reciting words that simultaneously bring Richard his greatest triumph and seal his fate. The Richards of our time possess neither his self-awareness, nor are likely to get their just deserts, as he does. The rest of the cast acquits themselves just fine, but it is when Feagin speaks that the play comes alive. I sometimes wished it was a monologue because, like every monomaniac, Richard doesn’t truly see anyone else except for how they may be of use to him. They’re all mere shadows next to his engulfing need for complete control. Evil is vanquished in Shakespeare’s play, but I didn’t walk out onto Howard Street feeling things would be OK. I don’t think I was meant to. There’s no way back from where Richard takes us.