Richard 3
adapted from William Shakespeare's HENRY VI

directed by Andrei Serban
costume design by Marina Draghici
lighting design by David Adams
acting coach is Ulla Wolcz
stage manager is Megan A. Mitchell

Andrei Serban will direct "RICHARD 3," a production adapted from Shakespeare's "Henry VI" and "Richard III," October 27 to November 4 in La MaMa's Annex Theater.

Features: Sekou Campbell*, Kevin Reed*, Aron Epstein, Cornel Gabara, Thomas Gissendanner*, Jason Griffin*, Kyle Haden*, Jeanne Harris*, Krassin Yordanov, Haerry Kim*, Ben Masur*, Anne Penner*, Chip Persons*, Richard Stein, Elijah Vanaver, Anjali Vashi*, Sheryle Wells*, Annie Yim* and Samir Younis*
*Denotes Columbia University's MFA Acting Class of 2002

New York Times Review

As it winds across the face of the earth, through time and space and the plains of history, evil is made manifest and slips away, leaving the world turned to a once avoidable horizon. Through the rise of Richard 3, the geometry of a catastrophe emerges. Shakespeare traces the path of destruction forged by an infernal history machine and the world is left to watch as kings and kingdoms rise and fall again into the abyss. Director Andrei Serban plumbs these depths through a triple-minded man turned to a singular, diabolical purpose. Richard has three faces, each emerging in its turn, each presenting another aspect of darkness. All the while Plantagenets turn against Plantagenets, Margaret watches her haunted past become an imminent future and Richard stare back from the void, knowing that, in this moment, evil is the catalyst moving the world forward. The good awaken to find England disintegrating into the vacuum of one man's perfect disaster. But as the inmates of England and earth stand at the edge of destiny, they may be comforted at the last by knowing if the right has not been reached, it lies ahead. Richard's fall is still to come.

Director Andrei Serban began his professional career at La MaMa in 1969 and became renowned for directing such memorable productions there as "Arden of Faversham," "Ubu," "The Good Woman of Setzuan," "As You Like It," "Uncle Vanya" and "Fragments of a Greek Trilogy." He returned to his native Romania in 1990 to head the National Theater there, and is now Director of the Oscar Hammerstein II Center for Theater Studiesand head of the Acting program at Columbia University. Mr Serban has just returned from Paris,where he directed a new adaptation of the Merchant of Venice at the Comedie Française. As a tenured professor at Columbia, he is happy to experiment in class new ways to approach Shakespeare and to share with an audience the fresh impresions the young students have discovered after an intense effort of work.

In the last five years, he has brought a succession of innovative classical productions to La MaMa, coinciding with a mushrooming of his career as a director of Shakespeare. In October, 1996, he staged three classics in repertory, "Love, the Greatest Enchantment" by Calderon de la Barca, "The Golden Bird" by Carlo Gozzi and "La Dispute" by Pierre de Marivaux, in a production which employed students of the Oscar Hammerstein II Center. In December of that year, honoring La MaMa's 35th anniversary, he returned with an updated version of The Great Jones Repertory in "The Trojan Women," a production he originally created with composer Elizabeth Swados in 1974 as part of the famed "Fragments of a Greek Trilogy."

In May, 1998, Serban staged Brecht's "The Caucasian Chalk Circle" at La MaMa, in a production co-directed by Nikolaus Wolcz with music composed by Elizabeth Swados. The production featured graduate students of the Oscar Hammerstein II Center for Theater Studies at Columbia University, whom Mr. Serban had trained using the same techniques as those he employed when forming La MaMa's original Great Jones Repertory. The following fall, following his much-celebrated staging of "Cymbeline" for NYSF, he staged "The Taming of the Shrew" at La MaMa, also with students from the Oscar Hammerstein II Center, in a Roman comedy-style production, replete with comedia dell 'arte, dance and acrobatics. Last season, he staged "Hamlet" for NYSF.

New York Times Review
November 3, 2001
by Neil Genzlinger

A Bad King (Richard III) Comes in 3's

Richard III, at least as portrayed by Shakespeare, was one nasty guy, except to the director Andrei Serban. In an energetic adaptation now on view at the La MaMa Annex, Mr. Serban has turned the blood-drenched king into three nasty guys.

Mr. Serban throws a lot of gimmicks into his production, "Richard 3," which he created by whittling down "Richard III" and adding some "Henry VI" (its chronological predecessor among Shakespeare's history plays). The most intriguing of these tricks is his triple-casting of the title role.

Three actors step into and out of the character during the evening, sometimes switching off in mid-scene. It makes the production unpredictably entertaining, though frustrating as well.

The Richard-switching sometimes creates great comedy, as when another character starts a conversation with the bald, maniacal Richard (Jason Griffin) only to blink and find that she is now addressing the smooth, long-haired Richard (Chip Persons) or the dark, brooding Richard (Thomas P. Gissendanner). And there are some compelling moments when all three actors join onstage — near the end, for instance, when the ghosts of the king's victims materialize.

But the price of these pluses is that you never get to know Richard or the three young actors completely. Each is good enough to make you wonder what he would do with the entire role; Mr. Gissendanner is especially interesting. And, of course, there's not much chance for Richard to transform as he climbs to power when he's been trisected from the start.

That turns "Richard 3" into not much more than a slayfest, which is largely what Shakespeare provided anyway — a lot of killing as Richard strives to get the crown. But Mr. Serban and his actors, most of them from the acting program at Columbia University (where Mr. Serban teaches), give short shrift to what subtlety Shakespeare did include, and instead go for the gore.

This is literally true: there is so much stage blood that several times in Tuesday's performance actors slipped on it. There are other distractions as well: rope climbing, biohazard suits, intrusive rap music, a videocamera.

Still, the show, which runs through Nov. 18, is more invigorating than annoying, made all the more so by the chance to see emerging actors. Anne Penner as Queen Margaret (sharing the role on alternating nights with Anjali Vashi) had a special intensity.

Be ready to applaud earlier than expected, though. Mr. Serban lops off the end of the play, and neither Richard A, B or C gets to offer his kingdom for a horse.

2001 page