CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One could venture to say the character of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is the Shakespearian villain people most love to hate. The Bard imbued in him, even in his physical manifestation, everything vile and evil. Jeff Bukovinsky brings to life this principal of Shakespeare's histories with an unmistakable glee.
The Alban Arts Center's presentation of "Richard III" is nothing short of spectacular. It is one of the most cleverly nuanced and delightfully entertaining adaptations of any Shakespearian performance I have had the pleasure to view on the local stage.
Using every gesture and look, the players make the most of even the subtlest gradation of the script. Little touches of comedy that are often bulldozed under for the sake of drama are brought to life and polished to a shine. Such talent and attention to detail makes the almost three-hour runtime fly.
Director Marlette Carter chose to play her cards close to her vest with minimalist staging and traditional costumes, which is, frankly, quite refreshing. Relying on her actors' talent and dedication to the craft, she takes no frivolous license with the script or staging. There is no need for clever artifice when a cast has put such obvious time and effort into a performance.
Audiences tire of every clever neophyte's avant-garde twist on classic works of great literature. It was refreshing to see the Alban Arts Center focus its time and talent on a straightforward and stunning presentation of a classic.
Adam Bryan carried himself with such an aristocratic air it was quite easy to get swept up in his performance as the Duke of Buckingham, torn between his loyalties and haunted by his actions. Bryan's performance was flawless.
Although the entire cast was superb, Bukovinsky and Bryan easily dominated their scenes. When they shared the stage, their united force was magnificent.
However, every thrilling moment of the play was absolutely dwarfed in the scene before the palace where Queen Margaret (Melanie Larch), Queen Elizabeth (Jessica Smith) and the Duchess of York (Mandy Petry) combined forces in what is without a doubt the most riveting moment of the play. Rarely in classic literature or upon the local stage are we treated to such a force of powerful actresses carrying a scene with such brutal passion. It was breathtaking.
The Alban Art Center's presentation of "Richard III" is not to be missed. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and March 1-2 and 2 p.m. Sunday and March 3. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students/seniors.
Please go see it. It is a gem of the local stage and should not be missed.