New York is truly the cultural center of the U.S. A low budget production of an obscure play, directed by a Columbia student, becomes one of the best performances I have seen. It isn't that other places lack the talent, or the means and motivation. It is just that New York has a unique quality and quantity of acting talent brought by people from other states and countries, trying to cut their slice of the Big Apple. New York is a city where people are unafraid act outside of stereotypes.
York & Margaret
Henry the Sixth Part III is a perfect example.The play opened with a bang. During the pre-show chatter amongn't the audience, a chair fell from the ceiling and smashed on the floor. Instant silence. A man dressed in white came onstage and put the pieces into a pile on the side. Another chair fell on the opposite side of the stage. The man in white did the same. On the stage there were two chairs. A throne and a very small wooden chair. I think it reflected on the relationship between fathers and sons in the play. But it was also crucial to have a throne, because kings and princes are fathers and sons, but are also political counterparts. Order and politics are what this and many other of Shakespeare's histories are about, and the authority of fathers is central to that. The man played the messenger throughout the play, but he also sat on a ladder in the back-round. He silently and invisibly moved around the stage, like a spirit. He seemed to instigate war on both sides.
Richard was the star. His disability was so believable that I actually thought he was disabled for a while. He was evil and bloodthirsty. His portrayal of hatred was so amazing that he almost bore likeness to a psycopath. He and Henry were bitter opposites. Henry was effective on a higher level; he was futile from the start. Usually, Henry starts confident and then caves. But he started so weak it was easy to understand why his downfall came to pass. He was always pressing his head into his hands, perfectly whole and holy, while Richard, deformed and Satan like. The three brothers were a skillful combination. They complimented each other with the evil, scheming plots of each to destroy the other.
Warrick was a monster at first. But as the play progressed he became an honest man trying to protect the honor of the crown. Clifford, Margaret's chief partner in crime, and York, the duke with a claim to the throne, were mirror images. Clifford was so evil in his destruction of the York family; he was almost like a horror film. York meant well but was weaseled out of honor by his sons. But there was one weak link; Margret, Henry's wife, was not evil enough. She was stern and cold, but she wasn’t as unforgiving as Clifford. It took away from her 'unnatural' ways.
I don't think that it is fair to have so many performances of plays like As You Like It, or Much Ado About Nothing. Maybe they are well known, but I thought this play was every bit as good. It is a bit confusing, but if you read it or watch a movie in advance, it's perfectly understandable. When done properly, Henry VI Part III is a very enjoyable evening! Although it is easier to understand other plays, that doesn't make them more fun.
Since it is the third and final part of the War of the Roses, it is extremly bloody. Anyone who gets in the way of the war is sucked in. This is like the city of New York, because you can't ignore it. But, although this quality makes it very interesting, the play itself is extremely rare. There are only a couple performances a year. So don't miss the Wide Eyed Productions & Columbia University's producton of Henry The Sixth Part III!
A Special Thanks to Kristin Skye Hoffman, Artistic Director and Co-Founder for the photos!