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"Director Hannah Wolff, with an extremely strong, all-women and non-binary cast... has closed a circle of nearly five centuries. When Shakespeare’s work was debuting... all roles were played by men. Wolff not only overturns this with her casting, but creates a liminal space, allowing for multiple readings of a previously fixed text.

 

With a 90-minute run-time, this show’s changes to the commonly performed text... make the end of the production more resonant than I have ever found it. What is most revelatory about the casting is the possibility it raises that acting choices are gendered. At the exact moment any male leading actor would demonstrate his vocal prowess, these performers almost uniformly choose quiet intensity, and the effect is all the more devastating. This is not to imply that the actors are lacking in emotional or vocal range, for that would do their work a grave disservice. Rather, these performances enhance the intention of the character, not the reputation of the actor...

 

Wolff... position[s] Richard not as the lead character, but rather as the fulcrum around which all else revolves. The result of this lensing is to transform the male-identified hierarchical pyramid into a feminist circle. All the characters in this reimagining are seeking agency, negotiating a problematic history, and trying to find their way in a murky and uncertain present. 

 

The show is performed in Christ Church Burial Ground, creating a depth of atmosphere no other stage could achieve. While the directorial intention is one of setting as signifier, pointing to the play’s context at the end of the War of The Roses and illuminating hidden (or at least forgotten) history, I believe the practical aspect—grave as set piece—is more powerful than any historical reference...

 

[T]he gaining of agency by historically marginalized communities will always be messy, and that cannot serve as an excuse to avoid the process. Although Richard III is Hestia Theatre Company’s first production, the audacity of their choices, and the nuanced nature of the cultural critique inculcated in those choices, announce that there is a vital new voice on the Philadelphia theater scene. Go see this show."

 

- Brad Rothbart, Broad Street Review

© 2020 by Hestia Theatre Company
 

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