Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When Will Boston Know It's A World Class Theater City?

Porter Square T is awash in theatre ads!

That was one of the questions headlining a Stagesource Boston Theatre Conference a few years ago.

The comparisons to Chicago, Seattle and Washington D.C. were made frequently in the breakout sessions and in the chatter in the lobby.

With ArtsEmserson exploding onto the scene this year, and smaller companies doing, quite frankly, some amazing theater (i.e., Whistler in the Dark's Tales from Ovid last fall, it seems like maybe we have arrived.

I didn't attend last month's Boston Theater Conference, but I was able to follow on Twitter. A bit of the conversation involved creating a Boston Fringe Festival, which might be a great step.

However, there is something a little weird about the recent Independent Reviewers of New England dustup in which Tom Garvey resigned from the IRNE committee under alleged pressure from a small number of companies.

Although, I feel strange writing "alleged" since somebody claiming to be Kati Mitchell from the American Repertory Theater pretty much outright confirms a lot of Garvey's story in a comment to his blog.

If you aren't caught up to speed on this, I think Ian Thal has a great post, with the relevant links, over on his blog today.

I agree one hundred percent with his closing paragraph:

But the bigger story is: pro-Garvey or anti-Garvey, this is being discussed on the telephone, by email, and in face to face conversations amongst theatre people, but no one in the local theatre press is covering this story either in print or online. Would the press be so quiet if something similar had occurred on the theatre scene in New York? Chicago? Washington, D.C.? Seattle? Minneapolis?


The behind-closed-doors nature of this is what makes it a little depressing.

If this were to have happened in Chicago or Seattle, wouldn't Brendan Kiley or Kris Vire at least have something to report on it?

If Don Hall or Tony Adams were to have a problem with a reviewer, I would most likely imagine them to publicly state their objections and openly pursue an agenda like this - perhaps with an open letter to the theatre community.

(By the way, I by no means want to put actions into the character of, words into the mouth of, or thoughts into the heads of these people I mention. I am just going off my years of following all of them.)

Of course, it is must be pointed out that the rival theater awards committee in Boston, the Elliot Norton Awards, has included writers for the Globe, Herald, Phoenix and other mainstream and alternative outlets. So it wouldn't be entirely surprising if they didn't care.

On a tangent to this debate, there is a unique question that comes with the rise of the independent online reviewer that I may explore in a future post. What is the appeals process? There is no editor at the Hub Review to whom a company can reach out. They must address Tom directly. One recourse a company may have is to deny the writer comps, which even Tom has expressed is entirely within their rights and in some ways understandable.

In other words, press comps are an instrument of the marketing and public relations department. If you consistently get unsatisfactory reviews, terminating the relationship with the writer makes a certain amount of economic sense, right? "Hey," one might imagine the P.R. rep saying to the reviewer, "what are we paying you for?"

Another step would be to deny the writer admission at all - which takes it up a notch.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors - When Love Goes Dark



After reading the Henry VI/Richard III cycle, I almost felt guilty reading Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare's first comic play, (although certain scholarship thinks it may be his earliest play.)

The plot moves like lightning and the dialogue is brisk. It is one of the Bard's shortest plays, and one of his funniest.

The comedy is farcical and hinges on the confusion of the identity of twins. Shakespeare doubles the laughs by providing two sets of twins, servants and masters.

But I notice more and more that Shakespeare seems not just to write with thematic structure in mind, he seems to think in imagery and themes.

The play starts with a sentence of death, a stranger in a strange land facing a punishment for simply being from the wrong place. Shakespeare is to play with the themes of finding and belonging throughout the play, examining it from every angle.

When Antipholus of Syracuse lands in Ephesus, where he too could be punished under the laws against citizen's of Syracuse, he finds his predicament causing reflection:


Antipholus of Syracuse: He that commends me to mine own content
Commends me to the thing I cannot get.
I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop,
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself:
So I, to find a mother and a brother,
In quest of them, unhappy, lose myself.


Here in this land though, he finds himself in a situation in which a home is pulling him and he receives gifts from strangers.

On the opposite side, Antipholus of Ephesus finds that he, who has fought nobly for his country and has a thriving estate, is now turned out in the street. In the end he is resorting pleading for justice.

One of Shakespeare's great themes is unrequited or dying love. Think of the great masterpieces Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado, Hamlet, etc. People suddenly changing in front of their lover's eyes. Where there was love, now there is none.

Is there nothing more frightening than the thought that one who loves us will change, that they will not recognize in the same loving way?

Antipholus of Syracuse, finds himself in his twin's house, talking to to his twin's wife Adriana, he does not recognize her and his ambiguity is piercing to her.


Adriana: Ay, ay, Antipholus, look strange and frown:
Some other mistress hath thy sweet aspects;
I am not Adriana nor thy wife.
The time was once when thou unurged wouldst vow
That never words were music to thine ear,
That never object pleasing in thine eye,
That never touch well welcome to thy hand,
That never meat sweet-savor'd in thy taste,
Unless I spake, or look'd, or touch'd, or carved to thee.
How comes it now, my husband, O, how comes it,
That thou art thus estranged from thyself?


I also notice that by starting with a death sentence, Shakespeare can expand his theme by making life itself a strange and temporary land, and he examines how the debts we owe limit us within its borders.

Here is a funny exchange between Dromio, one of the servants, and Adriana:

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE: No, no, the bell: 'tis time that I were gone:
It was two ere I left him, and now the clock
strikes one.

ADRIANA: The hours come back! that did I never hear.

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE: O, yes; if any hour meet a sergeant, a' turns back forvery fear.

ADRIANA: As if Time were in debt! how fondly dost thou reason!

DROMIO OF SYRACUSE: Time is a very bankrupt, and owes more than he's
worth, to season.
Nay, he's a thief too: have you not heard men say
That Time comes stealing on by night and day?
If Time be in debt and theft, and a sergeant in the way,
Hath he not reason to turn back an hour in a day?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wanted - Good Curators

Ian David Moss, over at his Createquity blog, has weighed in on the Supply/Demand conversation that has been continuing across the blogosphere. His post takes on the idea that there is too much supply.

Moreover, the phenomenon of oversupply—or, put another way, hypercompetition—is far, far bigger than the nonprofit arts sector. It affects industries ranging from video games to smartphone application stores, Facebook, cable TV, and yes, blogs. In many ways, it is existential in scope: our brains and lifespans are not built to withstand this onslaught of choices. The supply of artists, arts organizations, and even capital may increase with relative ease, but the supply of time in the day, last I checked, remains pretty constant.

So to me, the conversation we should be having is not about reducing supply. Instead it is about defining the responsibilities of cultural institutions to provide stewardship for a world in which supply of creative content is exploding and will never shrink. In this era of infinite choice, there is a desperate need for guidance as to how we should allocate the precious few hours that we have to experience something that will feed our souls, make us think differently, or incur a hearty laugh. In other words: for curation. We need someone to listen to, watch, and view all of the chaff so that we can confine our own time to the wheat. But quality curation-that is to say, curation that results from independent, original research and informed, critical judgments-is not just good for us as consumers. It’s just as important for the artists.


Read the whole thing here.

Workin' 9 to 5... and writing plays

This New York Times profile of Sharr White, who has a play opening at the MCC Theatre this week in New York is interesting considering all of the discussion around Mat Smart's post on the Howl Around blog this week.

Practicality is a common theme for Mr. White, who lives in Cold Spring, N.Y., with his wife and two young sons. When he’s not shuttling around to see his works produced in cities like Chicago, Louisville and Seattle, he works full time as a fashion copywriter, an occupation he credits for keeping his wordsmith skills up to speed.

“Sharr’s not isolated in a room with a candle,” said Hal Brooks, who directed Mr. White’s Iraq War drama “Six Years” at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville in 2006. “He gets up, writes, goes to his day job, comes home, raises a family and writes some more.”


Though I am an artist/writer who for most of my life has had to work a 9-5 or more, I have never really thought of it as any type of distinction. I think that there are great plays written by people that have other careers (W;t) and obviously there are great plays written by people who are solely writers.

If you read on in the article you will find that Sharr has an MFA, but it is NOT in playwriting.

Between Gallery and Theater


Brendan Kiley of Seattle's Stranger visits the Fry Museum to see the Degenerate Art Enslemble's attempt to merge installation and performance:

For weeks before the opening of the exhibition, Frye curator Robin Held and Kohl stressed to me in interviews that it was not supposed to be a collection of relics and artifacts from previous performances, but an experience in its own right, a distillation of the DAE aesthetic into a museumworthy show.

(...)

Kohl has spoken about how the manipulations of theater and the manipulations of a gallery are different. Theater is fast, he explained — stitching on a dress can be provisional, details can be shellacked over, and if a costume splits or a thing breaks, a little tape can hold it together until the end of the show. "But in a gallery, people get up close and examine things," he said. "So we wanted to feature the work of the artists we've worked with for years* who've mostly been in the background and bring them up to the foreground."


Though overall, Kiley is not really sold, he believes one piece is very successful. It is a sonic installation called The Tuning Nest

(Photo by Bruce Tom)

Gray Skies and Black Tree

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Peter Brook - Don't Confuse Beckett with Existensialism

Peter Brook, now 86, comes to the ArtsEmerson program this week with two productions: The Grand Inquisitor, which is a staging of a passage from Dostoyevsky's novel The Brothers Karamozov, and Fragments, a program of Samuel Beckett shorts.

In a pre-show piece in the Boston Globe, Brook explains how many have missed a crucial element of Beckett's work:

“They thought he was a sort of austere and rather forbidding, monk-like figure who looked at everything with a dark eye and saw nothing but human misery,’’ Brook said from Milan, where he was directing the “Magic Flute’’ that he will take to New York this summer. “And to find this man who loved women and good drink and good food and lived in Paris for choice, and was always every morning in a cafe, where he would be sitting enjoying himself with various friends, this man was not that.’’

Likewise the work, said Brook. He has been convinced for 50 years, ever since he saw the New York premiere of “Happy Days,’’ that there is “a shining thread running through’’ Beckett’s plays, even a capacity for joy. That it’s been largely overlooked, he said, is the fault of the existentialist movement.

“It was part of the human climate of the time,’’ explained the director, speaking from experience. In 1964, Brook directed the RSC’s Theatre of Cruelty season. “This was a time when in Europe there was a feeling that optimism was a bourgeois luxury that was too easy, and that the truth was something tougher and harder, and that the world’s bourgeoisie were refusing to look this in its face.’’

Hair - Theatre Playing to the Home Crowd

The Boston Herald has a short pre-show publicity profile of two Mass natives who are touring with Diane Paulus'production of Hair, which opens at the Colonial this Wednesday.

Though DeAngelis and Tacket are thrilled to be home performing for friends and family, they know Boston will be welcoming even if the house is full of strangers. In less liberal towns, that’s not always the case.

“When we go to, say, Tempe, Ariz., where they lean a little more to the right, it’s interesting,” DeAngelis said. “There’s a small portion of people who don’t get the message. But if someone does walk out, which doesn’t happen often, well, hey, at least we stirred up some powerful emotions.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Neighborhood and A Theater - "Now They Want To Come?"

In today's Washington Post, the story of an 83 year old man who bought an old movie house, tried to make it work as a theater, lost $350K and now just wants to sell it to developers. However:

McGinty, who wants to build apartments where the abandoned theater stands, stars opposite Loretta Neumann, who wants to save the old movie house and recast it as a nonprofit arts and culture center.

(...)

Neumann, who has lived four blocks from the Takoma for more than 30 years, was delighted when McGinty bought the old movie house and converted it into a stage theater.

“Mr. McGinty fixed it up, and we were so happy about that,” she said. She went to two of his plays, she said.

But when the theater failed to make money and McGinty applied for his first permit to raze the building in 2007, Neumann started the Takoma Theatre Conservancy and showed up at a historic preservation board hearing to thwart him.

She has since secured two major grants from the District to fund the conservancy’s efforts to transform the Takoma into a nonprofit.

This week, the conservancy will present several performances of “Let Freedom Ring: The Story of Marian Anderson,” a chamber opera whose librettist, Carolivia Herron, is the conservancy’s vice president. The performance Friday at the Washington Ethical Society will be a gala fundraiser for the conservancy.

“I will not be there,” McGinty said, unsurprisingly. He was standing at the back of his empty theater. The thought made him chuckle — until it didn’t.

“What irritates me the most is these people who say they’ll be hurt if this place is gone — they never came,” he said. “They never came until I said I want out. And now they want to come?”

R.I.P. Jon Lipsky

Playwright, Teacher and Director Jon Lipsky has passed away.

The Boston Globe obituary is here.

Currently, the Actors Shakespeare Project is running Lipsky's latest play Living in Exile, which is based on The Illiad.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Educating Rita - Don't Worry About This Nora



"Sir, a desire of knowledge is the natural feeling of mankind; and every human being, whose mind is not debauched, will be willing to give all that he has to get knowledge." - Samuel Johnson, as quoted in Boswell's Life of Johnson


A boozy, sullen professor of literature is reaching for a literary metaphor to describe his remarkable success in transforming the social and academic fortunes of a strong-willed and precocious hairdresser. He eschews Shaw's Pygmalion to grab hold of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

This may seem a bit strange at first. After all, British playwright Willy Russell's 1980 comedy Educating Rita, now being given a revival by the Huntington Theatre Company, is so obviously cast from the mold of the Shavian original that you half expect the eponymous stylist to plead with her teacher to help her "walk and talk like a regular lady." However, Russell, while no Shaw, does leave enough darkness around the edges of his otherwise sunny two-hander to help it escape at times from the light of its inspiration.

Frank Bryant, the professor who has agreed to take on the tutoring of an Open University student, is depressed and badly in need of a haircut. He inhabits an untidy office, filled with books which appear to be arranged and systematized only to hide his liquor bottles. The opening moments recall Butley, Simon Gray's play about a similarly washed up English lecturer, which the Huntington revived a few years back.

Into this stale environment breezes Rita, a twenty six year old hairdresser from Liverpool who has taken advantage of the new open admissions university program to learn, in her words, "Everything." Frank asks for a clarification on this ambition, to which she brightly chirps, "Yeah!"

As Rita, Jane Pfitsch glides across the stage in a giddy array of costumes, ranging from the tacky to the gorgeous. Scene by scene, her attire and hair indicate her transformation over the course of her year studying once a week with her new instructor.

Frank openly admits to his new pupil that he is doing this Open University tutoring for the money. In fact, he has long ago given up his faith in education and maybe in culture itself. He was once a published poet, but can't even bear to look at his own work, as he thinks it is the kind of elitist rubbish that can only be appreciated by post graduate library rats.

Formula would suggest that Rita will struggle to gain the degree and Frank will become revitalized through watching her love of learning and her persistence. However, Russell has just a little more up his sleeve than the average Hollywood movie.

Rita isn't exactly what she seems at first. She comes in determined and proves to be a rather quick study, so quick, in fact, that she races ahead of our expectations. She is married to a lunkhead who thinks, "there is a time for education and it not at twenty six," but it seems as if this husband is an afterthought, even as she begins her studies - she is on the pill and refuses to get pregnant until she has found her identity. And her real name, she confesses, is Susan. She has chosen her moniker after Rita Mae Brown, author of the bestseller from the 1970's The Rubyfruit Jungle. That the play gets away with such obvious symbols is a testament not only to the playwright's amiable dialogue, but also the pleasant Huntington production.

Indeed, the affable back and forth that the actors establish during their first meeting is maintained throughout the evening, and it keeps the audience in good company, even when the play seems to drag a bit before the first act reaches its climax. The numerous short scenes can also seem a little disconnected at times. A recent British production cut the play down to 90 minutes.

Russell presents a large central question: What Is the Purpose of an Education? From there he spins of dozens of related inquiries. All of this is executed by the playwright with a very light touch - maybe too light. This is not penetrating or incisive theater. But the actors, aided by director Maria Aitken, keep things brisk and bubbly, not an easy feat considering the the lengths they need to travel on the Huntington mainstage. The office, with its tall windows and towering bookshelves, seems a little more fit for a vice chancellor at Hogwarth's than a university lecturer in the North of England.

Without ever sounding too didactic, Frank and Rita reference Chekhov, Shakespeare, Blake, Sons and Lovers, Howard's End and, yes, Mary Shelley's gothic horror story in aid of explanations about tragedy, comedy and criticism. About that last element, Frank is clear that "criticism should never be subjective." Early in the evening Rita's critical vocabulary consists of "crap", and her answer to Frank's essay question about solving the difficulties in staging Ibsen's Peer Gynt is not much more elaborate: "Put it on the radio." By the end of the night Rita is sometimes a half step ahead of her mentor.

Frank, though, is a harder case for conversion.



There is a nice irony woven into the plot. All the things that are transforming and liberating Rita are all the things that Frank loathes. Surrounded by books, he drinks constantly. Although he is able to provide the proper affectation when needed, Andrew Long also gives us the proper weariness. When Rita points out that a beautiful painting he has on his office wall is "kind of erotic," he admits, with a distracted sigh, that he hasn't "looked at that painting in ten years." Though there are flickering embers in his tired eyes as Rita gains confidence and knowledge, they dim again as he realizes that this education he is providing is bringing her to a point where she will no longer need him. And when his protege starts turning in papers crammed with the trendy analysis of current academia, it just seems too much for him to bear.

It's refreshing, in a nostalgic way, to see how successfully a two-character, one-set script can effectively explore ideas when well-crafted. Like other good plays of this kind, Educating Rita keeps the interesting interpersonal dynamics at center stage, but there is always a feeling that larger forces are moving just outside the room.




(All Photos are by T. Charles Erickson)

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis - Hoof Stuff or Boar's Blood and Adonis DNA



Shakespeare's Richard III was popular, but his erotic poem Venus and Adonis was an outright hit.

It's easy to see why. It is a super sexy seduction narrative combined with stunning pastoral imagery, including one hundred ways to describe a horse. Considering it takes place in about 24 hours - most of it in the same place -it has a surprising urgency.

Shakespeare's natural imagery only got more sophisticated as he progressed, but it's pretty vivid, almost too wild here. Here, the Goddess Venus tries to hold young Adonis:

Sometime her arms infold him like a band:
She would, he will not in her arms be bound;
And when from thence he struggles to be gone,
She locks her lily fingers one in one.

"Fondling" she saith, "since I have hemmd thee here
Withing the circuit of this ivory pale,
I'll be a park and though shalt be my deer:
Feed where thou wilt, on mountain , or in dale;
Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry
Stray lower where the pleasant fountains lie.


It goes on, but you get the picture. But aside from the naughty, Shakespeare works out his descriptive powers with a thrilling courtship of two horses. Here is just some of it:

Look, when a painter would surpass the life,
In limning out a well-proportion'd steed,
His art with nature's workmanship at strife,
As if the dead the living should exceed;
So did this horse excel a common one
In shape, in courage, colour, pace and bone.

Round-hoof'd, short-jointed, fetlocks shag and long,
Broad breast, full eye, small head and nostril wide,
High crest, short ears, straight legs and passing
strong,
Thin mane, thick tail, broad buttock, tender hide:
Look, what a horse should have he did not lack,
Save a proud rider on so proud a back.



In the end I noticed a touch of the villainous zeal that I saw in Richard III. Venus, having lost her Adonis to the Boar, pledges discord. I'll quote it in full, but end by saying that it really prefaces the themes of love that Shakespeare approaches in the great plays.

Since thou art dead, lo, here I prophesy:
Sorrow on love hereafter shall attend:
It shall be waited on with jealousy,
Find sweet beginning, but unsavoury end,
Ne'er settled equally, but high or low,
That all love's pleasure shall not match his woe.

'It shall be fickle, false and full of fraud,
Bud and be blasted in a breathing-while;
The bottom poison, and the top o'erstraw'd
With sweets that shall the truest sight beguile:
The strongest body shall it make most weak,
Strike the wise dumb and teach the fool to speak.

'It shall be sparing and too full of riot,
Teaching decrepit age to tread the measures;
The staring ruffian shall it keep in quiet,
Pluck down the rich, enrich the poor with treasures;
It shall be raging-mad and silly-mild,
Make the young old, the old become a child.

'It shall suspect where is no cause of fear;
It shall not fear where it should most mistrust;
It shall be merciful and too severe,
And most deceiving when it seems most just;
Perverse it shall be where it shows most toward,
Put fear to valour, courage to the coward.

'It shall be cause of war and dire events,
And set dissension 'twixt the son and sire;
Subject and servile to all discontents,
As dry combustious matter is to fire:
Sith in his prime Death doth my love destroy,
They that love best their loves shall not enjoy



By the way, Charlie Sheen's recent talk of goddesses and Adonis were not what prompted me to reread the poem. It is just a strange coincidence.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Shakespeare's Richard III - Grown Tired and Annoyed With the World




Having recently read Shakespeare's Henry VI trilogy, I decided to just continue on into the next play, the overwhelmingly popular Richard III. After all, it is pretty clear that this sequence of histories was probably conceived of, if not performed as, a tetralogy. Indeed, I found Richard III a whole lot easier to follow, with respect to nuances and thematic links, after having freshly read the three previous plays.

I've seen a number of productions of Richard III over the years, including the famous Ian McKellan version that the National Theatre toured back in the early nineties. However, I haven't actually sat down with the text for a long time.

Wow, it is amazing just how much is cut from most productions. And with good reason. I found that I was starting to scan forward at times.

For instance, in Act III, Scene IV, Hastings has just been sentenced to death by Richard. After Richard, (now the Duke of Gloucester,) leaves, Hastings laments for lines, but then is interrupted the henchman Ratcliffe, "Come, come, dispatch, the Duke would be at dinner. Make short shrift, he longs to see your head." It's a little joke, the type of which Shakespeare employs throughout his canon - In Hamlet, Polonius interrupts the players with "This is too long."

But Hastings keeps going on for a bit more here, and has to be hurried along by another henchman. Even some of the larger and more famous set pieces, brilliant as they are get a little arduous - the wooing of Lady Anne, the political seduction of Elizabeth...

Although I am trying to just put down my own thoughts in these posts, I was curious as to the thoughts of different critics.

The critics Mark Van Doren and Harold Bloom have two almost contrary views of the play - outside of Richard. Van Doren views the stately, declamatory language of the women and the court to be the necessary backdrop for the more earthy and sinuous Richard. The neat image he uses is that of a snake along the white, stately wall of the palace.

Bloom seems to see the rest of the play, outside of Richard's presence, as rubbish. In fact, he calls the play "an actress's nightmare," - citing the hard-to-pull-off scene where Elizabeth, Margaret and the Duchess of York talk of their situations in highly stylized and repetitive lines.

For my part, I was struck by how fast this play leaps out of the gate. In very short order we have Richard's famous opening monologue, the seduction of Lady Anne and, very soon after that, the murder of Clarence, including his famous dream, which most critics admit can rival almost anything else in Shakespeare.

I actually thought this scene from the film version of the Ian McKellan Richard III was a a highlight:



Richard III recalls the court conspiracy atmosphere of Part 2 of the Henry VI trilogy. It is where Richard is in his element. Really, the other characters don't stand a chance against him to the point where he starts separating them from their heads left and right. Unless they can dutifully play the part of their designated chess piece, they are cast from his Machiavellian board. All the better for him to concentrate.

When Lord Buckingham, who has been Richard's faithful conspirator, asks about receiving an earldom he was promised, he finds that he has literally outlived his usefulness.

BUCKINGHAM: My lord, your promise for the earldom,--

KING RICHARD III:Richmond! When last I was at Exeter,
The mayor in courtesy show'd me the castle,
And call'd it Rougemont: at which name I started,
Because a bard of Ireland told me once
I should not live long after I saw Richmond.

BUCKINGHAM: My Lord!

KING RICHARD III: Ay, what's o'clock?

BUCKINGHAM: I am thus bold to put your grace in mind
Of what you promised me.

KING RICHARD III: Well, but what's o'clock?

BUCKINGHAM: Upon the stroke of ten.

KING RICHARD III: Well, let it strike.

BUCKINGHAM: Why let it strike?

KING RICHARD III: Because that, like a Jack, thou keep'st the stroke
Betwixt thy begging and my meditation.
I am not in the giving vein to-day.

BUCKINGHAM: Why, then resolve me whether you will or no.

KING RICHARD III: Tut, tut,
Thou troublest me; am not in the vein.



Here I will agree with Harold Bloom's observation that our private counsel with Richard actually intensifies our own fears - after Buckingham is dispatched, we feel at any moment Richard could turn to the audience and proclaim - "I've had enough of them - off with their heads!"

The ending of the play seems rushed, and a little foreign to what has come before, but only in isolation from the rest of the Henry VI cycle. Suddenly, near the end, we are back on the battlefields that are so familiar from the first three plays. Richmond's closing orations and other references feel more complete and make more sense as a closing of a circle started in Henry VI Part 1. For instance, Richard noting the Sun is not only a reference to his joke about the "Son of York", but echoes back to the image of the three suns/sons of York in another Henry VI play. Richmond references sons and fathers dying in battle - a theme that runs throughout the first plays.

Richard, however, seems a bit out of place and lost on this ground. He is less convincing on the field, and perhaps Shakespeare knows that. After all, he doesn't give the villain much to do there before Richmond does him in quickly. The rascal knows he's getting the hook, and he probably always knew it. But his creator at least lets him cavort wildly through most of the play before the ship of state is righted and "glorious summer" returns.