Theatre Review: ‘Seize the King’ at Alliance Theatre

Photos by Greg Mooney

Alliance Theatre is producing Will Power’s drama “Seize the King,” directed by Michael John Garcés, at the Hertz Stage, running through March 8. The play is based on Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” which features the Bard’s most notorious villain, if you don’t count Iago in “Othello.”

Christopher Moses, the Alliance’s Director of Education & Associate Artistic Director, reports that “After hearing from countless educators and district leaders about their struggle to engage high school students in classic literature, we created the Classic Remix Project.” The project will commission leading American playwrights to create new works that revitalize, rethink, and respond to classic works found in high school curriculums.

The goal is to create a canon of new work that will engage both high school students and adult audiences. Mr. Moses refers to “Will Power’s breathtaking riff on the Shakespearean tragedy…a classic, remixed.” It sounds like we’re in a recording studio—a “riff” on “Richard III”? Yes, that’s what we’re doing. Power has been called a pioneer in hip-hop theatre.

This adaptation has just five actors playing several people. Shakespeare’s play has around 50 characters and is one of his longest. “Seize the King” runs about two hours, including one intermission. Fortunately, we have five excellent actors, referred to as Actor 1, Actor 2, and so on.

Their names are Travis Turner (outstanding), Wigasi Brant, Shakirah Demesier, Allan Edwards, and Tangela Large.

Perhaps you recall that Richard not only resents his younger brother Edward for being king: He also resents the power and happiness of everybody around him. He decides to kill anyone he has to in order to become king—he is the original badass, as they say. Remember his wooing of Lady Anne for marriage (even though he killed her first husband)?

Mr. Moses again: “In an election year overflowing with political maneuvering, this story strikes a resonant chord, and it’s striking to see how little has changed in politics and power since the days of Richard III.”

I’m not going to give you the plot of “Richard III”; it’s long and Google has it. Besides, it’s only a jumping off point for “Seize the King.”

Nephelie Andonyadis’ scenic design is stark and forbidding, as is the play.

Several years ago, I saw a thrilling “Richard III” at Georgia Shakespeare (sadly, now defunct); it was one of those theatre evenings that you never forget. “Seize the King,” as well performed and cleverly written as it is (and I know comparisons are odious) does not hold a candle to the Bard’s original. How could it? Only Shakespeare is Shakespeare.

But if the current play, and the others coming from the Alliance’s Classic Remix Project, gets young audiences in the theatre door, then bravo. But the students should be told, and you should know, that this is not Shakespeare’s “Richard III”; but it is powerful, live theatre. And in “Seize the King,” provocative ideas are flying.

For tickets and information, visit alliancetheatre.org.

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