“Now is the winter of our discontent” might be Shakespeare’s most famous opening line. But no one will walk away from Reduxion Theatre’s Richard III “discontent” with the performances.
Known for adding twists to the classics, Reduxion has embarked on its first Shakespearean history, setting the play in the cabaret world of the Weimar Republic in the late 1920s.
“[We] liked the idea of the journey of the Weimar Republic from this crazy time in Berlin: the cabarets and the sexual exploration and the vogue of lesbianism and the rise of prostitution,” said Erin Woods, managing director.
While the original Shakespearean language is used, the elements of music and dance spice up what some might consider dense text.
“We love song and dance in Shakespeare. We just dig it,” she said.
When Erin Woods and her husband, artistic director Tyler Woods, set out to cast the show, their thoughts immediately went to Rex Daugherty, whom they knew from involvement with Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park.
“It supports what Shakespeare was doing. There’s so much song and dance in the shows,” said Daugherty. “And the original performances would be interspliced with a song, a dance, a bear fight.”
After seeking his “fame and fortune” in Washington, D.C. for the past six years, Oklahoma-born Daugherty agreed to return and play the title role.
“We wanted to have a very specific kind of Richard,” said Erin Woods. “Someone with a lot of young energy, but who had the experience to do it.”
Daugherty welcomed the chance to come back to his old stomping grounds, as well as work on “one of the big, tragic Shakespeare roles.”
To provide context for audiences, the play’s program includes a historical flowchart, as well as a brief overview of political and historical climates from both Richard III and the Weimar Republic, and notes on how the themes and ideas of the two eras intersect.
“We kind of play with the pageantry of politics,” said Tyler Woods.
“There’s a moment in the play where Richard looks at the audience and says, ‘Basically, if things go wrong, it’s your fault, because you elected me.’ And that was written 400 some-odd years ago. No matter what side of issues you fall on today, I think everyone can agree, ‘Wow, that’s really poignant.’ Shakespeare is just very timeless.”
While not a traditional musical, Richard III’s incorporation of song and dance offers relief from the seriousness of political context. Reduxion’s production covers a lot of ground without sacrificing details.
The setting’s time period is reflected through vintage military uniforms and cigarette smoking, with touches of royalty by way of crowns and intricate, plush-looking costume design.
Reduxion’s quirkiness comes through before the show and during intermission, when flapper girls wander the audience to hand out candy cigarettes. During the piece, Richard himself joins his entourage to pass out “I Like Dick” campaign buttons.