ONE Just saw St. Louis Shakespeare's RICHARD III. It was a very good production, one of those shows I've caught in recent weeks among others I'm planning to see in the next couple, which is reframing my appreciation of theatre in town, and re-inspiring my dedication to the work here.
It featured Charlie Barron (cast mate from Theatre Critics Circle Award nominated ensemble of Slightly Askew's ONE FLEA SPARE) as Richard, and Michelle Hand (my sister in play and play-within-a-play for upcoming THE TWO-CHARACTER PLAY.)
Both were excellent and led a strong cast.
I also liked the direction of Suki Peters, who recently took over the Company. A very intelligent production, well-paced, very clear. She moved the medium-sized cast smoothly around the stage, and incorporated a brief but effective final battle scene. Nice, tasteful choices of music and SFX, and outstanding costumes.
Only quibble was the double and triple casting. It certainly would make for harder production logistics, but even with astute use of fake beards, different hats, etc I always flinch when I see someone come on stage, doubling up. I hated it in The Rep's much praised (for some reason, I think cause they're The Rep) ALL THE WAY, and didn't like it any better here. (The Rep has the money and resources to not double/triple cast). There are a lot of actors looking for work in town – a lot of young actors getting started and older actors looking to work for better companies. Double and triple casting is just a little bit high school.
TWO Talked a bit with Suki pre-show, and we referenced Al Pacino's obsession with the show, illustrated with his great LOOKING FOR RICHARD documentary. Suki said she thought that was his best performance (along with, maybe, SCARFACE.) Pacino has taken a lot of hits lately, with odd (probably money-driven) roles in questionable films (his choices no doubt dictated by Hollywood's view of aging.) Critics have piled on for what has turned into somewhat of a bombastic style of performing.
Trust folks remember some of his earlier work: SERPICO and (for God's sake) GODFATHER I and II, as well as some masterful mid-career roles – GLENGARRY GLENN ROSS, HEAT, THE INSIDER and ANY GIVEN SUNDAY – not to mention late, great HBO work – ANGELS IN AMERICA, YOU DON'T KNOW JACK and PHIL SPECTOR. Around and since then, he has gone over the top in some stuff, but, haven't we all?
THREE As for Pacino, I think it may have been instructive to have seen him in earlier stage work (of which LOOKING FOR RICHARD is certainly representative).
Though his recent new Mamet script CHINA DOLL was probably justifiably blasted (saying he's lost his way on stage, can't remember lines, but that CHINA DOLL was not a good script), previous work like RICHARD III, MERCHANT OF VENICE and AMERICAN BUFFALO were highly praised and are still remembered.
I had the chance to see him in 2002 in Brecht's ARTURO UI. It was Tony Randall's company and had an all-star cast – John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Billy Crudup, Chazz Palmienteri and more including Randall himself. And Pacino's energy (which lately has been blasting uncomfortably through the screen in his films) is made for the stage. Written as a protest against the rise of Hitler and fascism, it was resurrected as a caution against the coming Middle East wars. Pacino portrayed an ape-like small-time Chicago hood who rises to the top through brutality and violence and, by the end of the play, becomes a literal Hitler ranting to his followers. Fantastic stage work.
I did have one interesting experience with LOOKING FOR RICHARD. I had rented the DVD when I got the chance, and loved it. A few months later, I was packing for a business trip, and flipped on the tv in the bedroom as I did it. LOOKING FOR RICHARD was on, and I couldn't help but just sit down and watch it again. It was somewhere in the middle of the film, and it was like I'd never seen it before – just as captivating as watching it the first time.
The next day I was in California, and meeting a few colleagues in the lobby of Shutters, a hotel in Santa Monica. One of my associates said, quietly, "Turn around." I did, and there, just a few feet away, was Pacino. (The actress Lindsay Crouse was with him, among others, and I realized he was in production for Michael Mann's THE INSIDER.)
Of course, as one is supposed to do with California cool, I glanced but didn't bother him. But, as a fan, it was a thrill, and an exclamation point on LOOKING FOR RICHARD.