What an ingenious move, to reposition Shakespeare’s History Plays to feature a woman who might seem to simply sit on the sidelines while the men do all the jockeying for power during the 30-some-year war between the Plantagenets and Yorks.
Artistic director Ellen Geer uses her expertise to cobble together the elaborate shenanigans that wind through the fateful quarrel between the houses of Lancaster and York. In the process, she brings Queen Margaret’s trajectory to the fore. Beginning with her wide-eyed acquiescence to wed King Henry VI (Emoria Weidner), Queen Margaret (Melora Marshall) develops into a wily and powerful queen.
Viewed from this angle, the machinations of power exhibited (and privileged) by Shakespeare become merely obstacles to her drive to preserve her family. Most notable among her adversaries, Richard III (excellently rendered by Jon Sprik), stands out as particularly pernicious.
With a cast too numerous to mention everyone, standouts include Willow Geer as the ambitious Duchess Eleanor, Sky Wahl in a cameo as Joan (of Arc), Rhett Curry as Warwick, and the numerous children who ably accomplish their roles.
Ellen Geer, in her other hat as director, keeps the manpower moving through each chapter of the long war until the final battle, which is performed, appropriately, in slow motion.
When it is time to exhale, only then do we have a moment to admire the intricate fight choreography by Calvin Mohrhardt; costuming by Shon LeBlanc and A Jeffrey Schoenberg; music by composer Marshall McDaniel, and props by Ian Geatz. This is a production that should have a long life amongst the pantheon of plays by Shakespeare that memorialized the War of the Roses for all time..
Theatricum Botanicum’s summer fare includes War of the Roses, MacBeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the modern A Perfect Ganesh, playing in repertory through October 7th, 2023 at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga 90290. Tickets range from $35.00 to $60.00. Phone (310) 455-3723 or online, www.theatricum.com for exact schedule and ticket information.