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Play Review:

Actors give moving performances

August 19, 2009|By Brian McGackin

The Burbank Public Library’s Buena Vista branch, together with the nonprofit acting group Shakespeare at Play, put on one of the Bard’s most popular plays — “Richard III” Saturday and Sunday evenings outside the library in Lincoln Park.

The production was performed as part of Shakespeare at Play’s sixth annual Shakespeare in the Park program, though this year’s show, dubbed “Shakespeare Under the Stars,” was the first to be performed at night. Prior to the performance, the nonprofit group put on a separate program, “The Big Read,” supported through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

“The Big Read” is a show in which actors perform scenes from books on the endowment’s suggested reading list. This weekend’s performance showcased scenes from “Sun, Stone and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories,” and even included dancers from local Mexican dance troupes.

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Saturday evening’s “The Big Read” performance went long, so “Richard III,” scheduled for 7 p.m., didn’t begin until about 7:30 p.m. There were also some audio problems during the play’s first 15 minutes, before the microphones were given up altogether, so the show got off to a rocky start.

Being performed outdoors in Lincoln Park, at the busy intersection of Buena Vista Street and Verdugo Avenue, the actors had a lot of noise to compete with, but after those first 15 minutes, the show began to run smoothly.

Though a group of only 15 actors were portraying close to 40 characters, Shakespeare at Play made the performance surprisingly easy to follow along. Thankfully, most of the actors who held different roles only switched after one of their characters had died, instead of playing characters who were alive at the same time but not on stage together. Also, several of the larger roles, such as Richard, Buckingham, Lord Stanley and Queen Elizabeth, were played by actors with no other roles to emphasize their importance to the play, making it easier to follow along.

Despite the uphill battle the actors faced, having to deal with outside noise, several roles, and, later in the show, an unusually chilly evening, most of the actors played their parts exceptionally well. Drew Doyle and Nicole Maggi — portraying Buckingham and Queen Elizabeth, respectively — each gave convincing supporting performances.

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