By Roz Rogoff
Deceit for all agesUploaded: Oct 24, 2011
One of Shakespeare's most popular plays, King Richard III, is in a limited, two-week engagement at the Curran Theater in San Francisco. I managed to get a ticket in the second to last row of the rear balcony for last Saturday's Matinee.
I met my sister at the theater. She bought a seat in the back row, with the isle in front, for the leg room. My seat in Row L was on the isle, so I had a little leg room for my right leg but my left leg was cramped. That wasn't as bad as the narrowness of the seat, which was barely wide enough for my wideness to fit into it. The right side arm support cut into my thigh. So I squirmed around trying to get comfortable most of the afternoon. The show runs almost four hours.
This production, starring Kevin Spacey, debuted at the Old Vic in London where Spacey is Artistic Director. The play is on a World Tour, but San Francisco and the Brooklyn Academy of Music are the only American stops.
Sam Mendes effectively directed the production on a plain stage, with sparse sets. Drums punctuate the air like gunshots. A billboard flashes a character's name in lights at the start of his or her key scene.
In the scene where Richard's hit men murder his brother, spotlights cast shadows of the killers surrounding the hapless Duke of Clarence, adding to the menace of the scene. Poor Clarence, still trusting his brother, tries to convince the killers that Richard would pay them off to save him.
This production is performed in "modern" dress. The men wear suits that look modern, but the women all wear long flowing dresses, which offsets some of the contemporary feel. This gives the effect of being timeless, not now or then but any time.
Kevin Spacey's Richard is deceitful, devious, and dangerous. Richard's soulless manipulation of everyone around him, friends, relatives, young or old, is still relevant today. He is willing to use and dispose of anyone to get what and where he wants. He boasts about how easy it is to get away with pointing the finger at others to take the blame for his machinations. Such high level hypocrisy seems to be even more prevalent in today's World.
Act I, Scene III
"I do the wrong, and first begin to brawl.
The secret mischiefs that I set abroach
I lay unto the grievous charge of others."
Many politicians, political pundits, radio and TV personalities use the same technique to fool "many simple gulls." The easily conned (gulls) believe the deceivers and direct their hostility and distrust where these false fingers point.
"But then I sigh, and with a piece of scripture,
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil;
And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends stol'n forth of holy writ,
And seem a saint when most I play the devil."
Shakespeare must have been watching the Republican Presidential Debates when he wrote that.
The lesson to take from this is don't trust anyone who tells you whom to distrust. Do your homework and find out what is really happening and how to deal with it before taking potshots at the wrong targets.