Monday, June 4, 2012

TGIF: Raves for Jonathan Frid in Richard III, 1965

Throughout his life, Jonathan Frid stressed that his favorite role was of Richard III, and here we've got evidence that critics and audiences connected with him in that role, as well. (Note: According to the book Big Lou, Dark Shadows actor Louis Edmonds also worked with the director of this play in an adaption of Anton Chekov's The Three Sisters.)

"Richard III Is Masterful Play"
The Daily News,
Huntingdon and Mount Union, Pa.
July 8, 1965


The 1965 Summer Festival of Professional Theatre's Playhouse production of Richard III is a masterfully envisioned, brilliant and beautifully staged play.

Master craftsman John O'Shaughnessy has created a directorial tour de force possessing many technical excellences. He has molded a large cast of highly skilled actors, whose interpretations of their roles almost wholly sustained a high level of performance, into a forceful, beautiful piece of theatre art.

Jonathan Frid is a magnificent Richard. A baneful cripple, whose eyes see into his soul, dsiclosing in artfully spoken dialogue, soliloquy and asides, the ambition that rules his life and the cunning, malevolent trend of his thoughts.

Frid's performance captures a Richard who is human because he is greedy, ambitious andevil; a Richard who is admirable because he is loathsome; a facile cripple, most cruel in power, winning of speech and unhesitating of the mot foul murders in his climb to the English throne.

Supporting Frid's performance is one of the strongest casts whose artistry ever graced the stage. The tremendous evenness of the performances, all of a highly interpretive nature, demonstrated the ability of truly professional actors, challenged by the necessity to recreate individuals in their war-ridden, factional , early English world.

The strong, rock-like structure of the setting, with numerous entrances and exits, bare of scenery other than that with which it was invested through the imaginations of the audience by the actors' techniques, was beautifully chosen to permit the artist to make the most of his ability, to provide the functional levels and entrances necessary to the performance and movement of a large cast, to offer a challenge to the versatility of director John O'Shaughnessy while at the same time providing a very flexible area for blocking of scenes. And the essential bareness, strength and hardness of the rocklike surfaces, lent these qualities to the speech and performances of the play.

The costumes were colorful but not ornate, again following this line of little more than functional necessities. Yet they were colorful and, through the clear and even lighting, added a great deal to the beauty of the show.

The mood of each scene was determined by the actors' speech and actions and by the color and intensity of the lighting. The size of the area lit, and the blocking of each scene completed the determining of its impact on the audience.

Blocking was the highlight of the show. An example is the brilliant scene 3 with contrapuntal action and dialogue between Margaret and Richard, when the curses which determine the development of the play are laid. In a triangular picture involving the complete stage and three levels, O'Shaughnessy grouped the actors for strong playing spots and permitted Margaret to dominate a scene that much emphasize the importance of her speeches.

Several things still are not satisfactory from the audience point of view. A better solution should be found to the battle scenes, which become somewhat anti-climactic after such highly-charged dramatic scenes. The handling of battle scenes has always been one of the most difficult things about the performance of Shakespeare's plays in modern times.

Another intermission should be provided. The performance, which was logically divided between the point Richard achieves the throne and the start of his fall from power, has too-short an intermission. For a three-and-a-half hour production, the audience must be given more of a chance for rest.
Difficult too, at the beginning, is determining which of the participants are Lancastrian and which are Yorkists. And recognition of the individuals upon their appearance on stage is still a problem, as it usually is with a large cast and an involved plot line. Headgear and costuming helps somewhat, but more visual aids would be welcome.

Deserving special mention are the performances of Jonathan Frid, Bella Jarret and Douglas Marland; the use of vertical bars against the lit psychodrams and the original music used between scenes. Also the bit of comic relief with the severed head was a well-timed relief for the audience.

Summing up, the Playhouse Richard III is a strong, well-guided performance, with touches of genius.

NOTE: Many of the images used for TGIF: Thank God It's Frid-Day, are courtesy of Elena Nacanther, who is part of an effort to get Jonathan Frid nominated to Canada's Walk of Fame, a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization that recognizes Canadians who have excelled in music, sports, film, television, and other artistic endeavors. You can find the NOMINATE JONATHAN FRID TO CANADA'S WALK OF FAME Facebook page by clicking here. Please pay them a visit. You can see more selections from Elena's scrapbook each Friday here at the Collinsport Historical Society.)


Sandi McBride said...

I would have given most anything to see this...I always felt Jonathon Frid was under appreciated as an actor. He didn't chew the scenery, his voice was melodious and his words fluid...good work

Unknown said...

I think Frid excelled as Richard because he understood the duality of human nature. Richard was the dark side unleashed-- frightening, amoral, somehow amusing, and ultimately tragic. I always assumed his turn as RIII was lauded, it was nice to have that confirmed here. My thanks. :)

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