Ashland Review: Richard II and the Winter's Tale

Aug 16, 2016

  Dorothy Velasco reviews the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's productions of Richard II and The Winter's Tale.

This is KLCC. I’m Dorothy Velasco with the Ashland Review.

Three works by Shakespeare currently at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival include a brilliant history play, a fantasy, and a grotesque interpretation of a little known work.

“Richard II” is the most satisfying of the three. In a riveting production directed by Bill Rauch, Christopher Liam Moore, one of the festival’s finest actor-directors, creates an inept king who misuses his power and bankrupts his kingdom.

He ignores wise advice from his uncle, the Duke of York. He may have killed another uncle, and he usurps the property of yet another, John of Gaunt. In revenge, John’s son Henry returns from exile and dethrones his cousin Richard. Henry will become King Henry the IV, and subsequent history plays recount the family saga.

In this production the petulant, childish Richard is fascinating as he journeys toward maturity and learns to be a common man. Unlike Napoleon, who crowned himself, Richard uncrowns himself, saying, “I will undo myself/ I give this heavy weight from off my head.”

A heavy weight also rests on King Leontes’ head in “The Winter’s Tale,” one of Shakespeare’s problem plays, the problem being whether it’s tragedy or comedy.

As directed by the perfectly named Desdemona Chiang, the first half, supposedly set in Sicilia, has been relocated to ancient China with gorgeous traditional costumes and scenery. The Bohemia of the second half is now care-free hippie California.

In the beginning, Leontes, wrongly suspects that his wife and his best friend are lovers, and that the child she carries is not his own. The jealous Leontes gradually learns repentance and finally earns the restoration of lost happiness.

Next week, “Timon of Athens” and an introduction to the controversial Play On! project, commissioned to translate Shakespeare’s plays into modern English.

This is Dorothy Velasco with KLCC’s Ashland Review.