Publisher: Elizabeth Hurd

Tyler Woods Fascinates and Astounds as King Richard III!

Tyler Woods as Richard III woos Alexis Pudvan as Lady Anne in “The Tragedy of King Richard III” Photo courtesy of OSP

“The Tragedy of King Richard III” was likely written in 1593, a decade and a century after the last Plantagenet lost his throne.  Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park tells the fascinating story as Shakespeare intended brilliantly with Tyler Woods skillfully creating the wicked sociopath.  Richard was craven, but not cowardly, and in the convoluted turn his manipulations, machinations and scheming take, we find the evil wicked uncle brought to life.  In Richard, Shakespeare created an icon; the epitome of absolute evil scaring children the world over.  Shakespeare was no historian, he wrote to reveal a larger truth.

But in the stereotype created, that larger truth is often veiled and Kathryn McGill strips away the veil revealing that truth: evil is cunning and resourceful but it can ultimately be defeated, as Richard certainly was on Bosworth Field.  The Richard III Shakespeare created is not based on historical fact, only on rumor; but it affords us the opportunity to explore the disturbing birth, growth and death of a sociopathic serial killer.

One of Shakespeare’s longest plays, McGill has skillfully shortened the length, without damaging the wonderful Shakespearean cadence and language.  Tyler Woods faithfully brings Shakespeare’s intent to the stage by creating a Richard that conspires with the audience, as if it were his own conscience as he plots to murder all those who stand in his way.  His Richard is physically disabled, and Woods displays his physical handicaps as an extension of his mental processes, as was the custom of the time.  Nevertheless we see the charm and humor that makes us love this arch villain.  He lures us into the story with a wink and a nod and we become entranced by his audacity.  There are many charming serial killers attempting to seduce the unwary, and Richard is a seducer with wit as a he charms his assassins into carrying out his dastardly deeds.

Shakespeare’s Richard has a lust for power and he eliminates every obstacle that stands in his way.  His desire for the throne enables him to have every rightful heir to his brother Edward’s crown murdered, one by one.  Shakespeare uses every bit of propaganda that the Tudor faction invented or twisted from truth to reveal a man who will stop at nothing.  The larger truth that is revealed has nothing to do with historical fact, but it has much to do with the nature of man’s basest desire.  In telling the story for the Tudor Queen whose grandfather ultimately won the throne Richard lost, he gives a warning to Elizabeth:  A throne in contention is a kingdom in chaos.

As Duke of Gloucester under the banner of the boar, Richard assists the York heir, Edward to the throne by killing Henry VI, and his son Prince Edward.   He marries Prince Edward’s widow, Anne.  Then, as Richard’s brother King Edward IV, The Son in Splendor, nears the end of his life, Richard conspires to eliminate a rival, their brother, George, the Duke of Clarence through accusations of treason.  Clarence dies in prison, mysteriously stabbed then drowned in a butt of malmsey.  As Lord Protector of the Princes, Richard causes Edward’s two sons to be declared illegitimate.  Richard is declared King, by acclamation. Scheming to guard his legitimacy as King, he then decides to marry the sister of the Princes, the Princess Elizabeth, so he has his wife poisoned.  The young Edward and his brother, also Richard, are still a threat, so King Richard quietly has them killed.  He also has his dear friend Will Hastings and the Duke of Buckingham beheaded for the treason they commit.  The night before the battle on Bosworth Field these victims hauntingly parade through the dreams of the soon to be defeated and indefensibly evil King of England.

L to R: Alexis Ward as Queen Margaret, Alyssa Fantel as Queen Elizabeth, Alexis Pudvan as Lady Anne and Sarah Lomize as Duchess of York. Photo courtesy of OSP

Kathryn McGill’s brilliance in directing is enhanced the excellent work of by dramaturg, Dr. Kae Koger.  Her commentary in the program is a must-read for viewers, providing helpful background.  Tyler Woods brilliance in performing is enhanced by his fellow actors, notable among them specifically are Alexis Ward as Queen Margaret.  Ward understands her role in Shakespeare as the prophetess with phenomenal grace; she has an innate sense of Shakespearean language.  Sarah Lomize is also wonderful as the Duchess of York, the long suffering mother of Edward, George and Richard, the three sons who grew to infamy.  Lomize shows us the heart of Cecily as she watches the disintegration of her family as her youngest son murders everyone left that she loves.

Alyssa Fantel is Queen Elizabeth, the Woodville widow beloved of Edward IV.  Her portrayal is interesting; Shakespeare leaves her little time to grieve as her world is shattered.  Her eyes betray her desperation as each shard is then obliterated.  Alexis Pudvan is Lady Anne, ill-used by her father, then Richard and discarded without mercy.  Her grief as a widow is quickly abated as she realizes the wisdom in succumbing to Richard’s charm.  We see in both of these women Shakespeare’s understanding of the powerlessness of women:  they both are completely subject to the whims of men, yet their impact and influence is immeasurable.  The flash of defiance in Elizabeth’s eyes as she relinquishes her daughter to Richard and the shadow of resignation in Anne’s eyes as she begins to accept Richard’s duplicity is admirable—Fantel and Pudvan make these women memorable.

Mark Johnson as Lord William Hastings is an accomplished performer, very comfortable with Shakespearean cadence.  Johnson is the perfect choice for Hastings, showing the audience his unappreciated wisdom.  Joe Burleigh shines as George, the Duke of Clarence, in him we see none of the dissipation and all of the trust in brotherhood a victim of power might have.  Isaiah Werner is Sir James Tyrrel, a man willing to follow Richard to the depths of depravity against his better judgment, but with perfect loyalty.  Abigail Schmitz assists as another murderer, convincingly masculine in her role of the murderer with a conscience succumbing to the cash.  Schmitz later appears as the Princess Elizabeth, convincingly feminine without uttering a word.

Justin Armer is the Duke of Buckingham, the young traitor to all, and Micah Weese is Sir William Catesby whose conscience is sadly lacking.  Rick Lockett makes a brief appearance as the dissolute King Edward, and then returns as the ever loyal Lord Stanley.  His Stanley is convincing, and with a bit of tongue in cheek Shakespeare represents Stanley as loyal until he must recognize Richard’s debauchery, while the real Stanley was noted for changing sides frequently.  Lockett nails this difficult role with deadly accuracy.  Joseph Campbell is Lord Rivers and Daniel Etti-Williams is Marquis Dorset.  These two Woodville relations of Queen Elizabeth are a thorn in everybody’s throne.  David Pasto is Brackenbury and James Blunt, but he shines as the Lord Mayor of London.  We see his primary allegiance is to London, not to England.

L to R: Alexis Ward as Queen Margaret, Alyssa Fantel as Queen Elizabeth, Tyler Woods as King Richard III, Sarah Lomize as Duchess of York, Alexis Pudvan as Lady Anne. Photo Courtesy of OSP

The two young Princes are Oscar Chase, as Edward, the young Prince of Wales, educated by an uncle, Lord Rivers, condemned by another, King Richard III.  The Young York is another Richard, called Dickon like his uncle and also condemned by his birth to an early death.

Lastly is Bryan Lewis as Henry Tudor, Duke of Richmond.  Destined to become Henry VII, father to Henry VIII and grandfather to Elizabeth I.  This Henry founded the Tudor dynasty that ended with Elizabeth, but Queen Elizabeth became an Era, though in her own time she was known as Good Queen Bess.   This Henry is handsome, confident and assuring.  He will end the turmoil of the Plantagenet reign that began with the tumultuous Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and should have ended with Edward, the Sun in Splendor.  Lewis says it with one look.

It is a common practice to set Shakespearean plays in another time and this can extend the universal aspects to the show allowing the audience to concentrate on the story.  This version is set in the early 20th century; the connection to gangsters and gawkers gives “The Tragedy of King Richard III” a definitive poignancy.  The setting is loose, as there are many elements from several decades of the 20th century appearing.

Ten thousand words cannot adequately bring Richard III to life; “The Tragedy of King Richard III” must be seen.  Understanding Shakespeare literarily rather than literally is magic.  Magic can be seen at the Myriad Botanical Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City through September 28, 2018.  Due to construction at the park, concessions are limited, so don’t hesitate to bring a snack and drinks to quench the thirst.  For information and tickets on this or upcoming performances in the Paseo district call 405-235-3700 or visit




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