Richard II is not an often-done play by Shakespeare. One can see why. No love story after all. No obvious villain. The central character begins with all of us wanting to punch him in the face. With a hammer. Several times.
In essence, the play reveals England's plight under a bad king. This sounds simple enough, and to modern sensibilities we probably bad king, so we overthrow him! But this play eschews such melodrama for complexity.
In the hands of a lesser playwright -- and a less talented, skilled and well-directed company -- at this point we might see Richard as a mere tyrant, Bolingbroke as a hero. But no. Calamity shows us the human side of Richard. He has been foolish, not cruel. He is weak, not evil. Wrong, not stupid -- and he sees his doom approaching with dreadful clarity.
What could have been a soap opera in iambic pentameter and cool costumes instead ends up a compelling story of power politics reshaping people's lives, for good and ill and all things in between. Every word and deed in Richard II costs somebody something, and this production never lets you forget it! Nobody and everybody is to blame. Everybody and nobody is a hero. Just like real life.
Richard II plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm with a special Thursday performance on November 30 at 8pm. Its final show will be December 3, 2017 at the Studio/Stage Theatre 520 North Western Avenue (south of Melrose) Los Angeles CA 90004.