by William Shakespeare

September 2005

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Appropriate for its intimate space, Off The Wall Theatre’s production of  RICHARD III  focused on the intimate aspects of Shakespeare’s play about the ‘hunchbacked duke’  who murdered his way to the throne.  While the playwright’s historical accuracy may be suspect, few doubt the psychological precision with which he dissected the personality of a man who was rejected by his mother at birth for his physical deformity, alienated most of his young life, and finally found power through deception and murder. Richard III followed very closely the profile of a serial killer. What he gained from his crimes was secondary to the thrill he felt committing them. As his crimes increased, so did his need to attempt further atrocities. 

For the average theatre goer, even one who likes Shakespeare, the play can be difficult because of the English Civil War aspect and the families involved. To add to the confusion, many of the characters have the same names. Off the Wall Director Dale Gutzman attempted to solve these difficulties by trimming the show to two hours and centering the focus on the political and personal struggles of the family of York after they had taken power.  Gutzman used film and slides to convey the history behind the play and the relationships of the main characters. The locale of the play shifted from the living quarters at the palace, to the city morgue.  The intimate Off The Wall space allowed the beautiful Shakespearean language full power to control the rhythm and power of the play. 

And what a play it is. Richard, feeling he is a social outcast in “times of peace” decides to turn on his own family and murder his brothers to gain the throne for himself. In this way, he might finally get the attention of his mother who has rejected him since birth. He also seduces Lady Anne, over the corpse of her dead husband whom he has murdered. He kills his sister in law’s brother and her two children, several ambitious politicians, and ultimately Buckingham, his own advisor.  What makes Shakespeare’s play not only fascinating but compelling is the manner in which he does all this. He dupes those around him with a web of flattery and charm. He uses and discards people with a callousness unrivaled in the history of theatre.

To play this, one of the most difficult of all Shakespearean roles, Gutzman chose David Flores, a local actor who has attracted a huge following of fans over the years.  Flores has performed Shakespeare with Gutzman numerous times before, including playing in a production of  “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which toured Russia and the Ukraine. Few actors in Milwaukee speak Shakespearean verse as beautifully as David Flores. We were very lucky to have the talented Marilyn White play the demanding role of the Duchess of York in our production of Richard III.  The Duchess is Richard's mother who rejected her son at birth because of his physical deformity, and denied him her love.  The scenes between Richard and his mother form the very center of this powerful drama.

The entire cast of twenty actors was hand picked from various local theatre companies. Jake Russo (Buckingham) and Jason Powell ( Rivers) have acted with the Milwaukee Shakespeare Company and Broadway Baby, Carrie Williams (Elizabeth) has performed with Boulevard Theatre, and Linda Stieber (Anne) has appeared with the Skylight Theatre and Sunset Playhouse. Also in the cast were Ken Morgan as Clarence and King Edward,  Off The Wall technical director, David Roper as Hastings, Lawrence Lukasavage as Stanley, Thomas Welcenbach as Catesby, and Jeremy Welter as Richmond. 

Of special interest was an appearance of Ellen Klawuhn as Princess Margaret. Now in her mid eighties, Miss Klawuhn has appeared in Milwaukee theatre for sixty years in literally hundreds of productions.

Richard III by William Shakespeare at Off theWall Theatre, was as ambitious and impressive a production as anything ever staged in Milwaukee.  This tiny space on Wells street is dedicated to taking new looks at classic plays, and to offering an unrivaled variety of theatre experiences for Milwaukee audiences.