Written by 4:54 pm Review, Santa Ana, Santa Ana College, Theater, Uncategorized

King Richard III @ Santa Ana College – Review

photo credit: Matthew M. Hayashi
Written by Alina Mae Wilson
One of the more interesting aspects of watching Shakespearean theater is seeing the theme–often highlighted through costume design. Will they opt for traditional realism, donning attire of the Elizabethan era? Will they emphasize the similarities between the past and present by eschewing historical fashions and wearing the most modern looks? Or will they create their own look entirely, creating fantastical clothing designs not yet worn by anyone (Shakespeare in space comes to mind). And then there’s Santa Ana College’s Richard III. This production utilized recent looks from the early nineties to clearly and tastefully bring the energy of the original text to life while building on the similarities to recent history. Richard III had a brief run at Santa Ana College. More’s the pity because Richard III was the most enjoyable piece of Shakespeare I’ve seen in several years, with a strong theme and great acting. 


Initially written by William Shakespeare as a propaganda piece to discourage national discord and support Elizabeth I’s position as queen, Richard III is based on the real-life War of the Roses. While the actual Richard III might have been more nuanced, Shakespeare painted him as a pure villain. In this play, he is morally bankrupt, utterly bereft of decency and compassion, dedicated exclusively to his journey to power, and a bloodlust to hatefully destroy any who might prevent the desired ascension. He assassinates his supporters, schemes to marry his niece, and heartlessly murders the two child princes. Richard’s cruelty spawns the aforementioned war, and it is only through the tyrant’s defeat and a national pledge of forgiveness and unity that the nation can have peace. 


The costumes in this show were a wonderful choice. Through a 1990’s aesthetic, this production paired Richard III’s aggression and violence with the LA Riots. Particularly with Richard and his cronies decked out in police uniforms and riot gear, the political corruption of the past was unmistakably linked with the political corruption and police brutality of the modern day. Furthermore, whether regular clothing or riot gear, each outfit clearly and simply established each player’s role (something I always appreciate with the dense casts and ensembles of Shakespeare). And given how sensitive the subject of police brutality is, using easily recognizable officers as the support system for the primary antagonist’s villainy effectively elicited emotion from the audience while prompting an understanding of Richard’s powerful position. 


Overall, the acting in this show was great. While the extremely odd ensemble member may have temporarily checked out or succumbed to stage fright, these moments were brief and quickly forgotten when compared to the power of the overall performance.
Enrique Duenas’ portrayal of Richard III as a self-serving tyrant left the audience in a state of cautious bewilderment, anxiously wondering what would happen next while eagerly awaiting his demise.
Genevieve Kauper’s performance revealed Elizabeth’s anguish and desperation for life in her sorrowful portrayal of a mother fearing for her children. The ensemble’s work was strong and generally a pleasure to witness (even working some comedic moments into the general drama.
The Fight Choreography from Toby Pruett was a highlight of the performance.

8.3 Overall
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Good Show! OCR Recommended!

March 30 – April 1, 2023.

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