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
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
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
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.
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
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.