Richmond Shakespeare's "Elizabeth Rex" provides modern meditation on gender roles in Elizabethan England
Theater-goers looking for a little controversy in their schedule need look no further. Richmond Shakespeare is showing Timothy Findley’s “Elizabeth Rex” at the Gottwald Playhouse.
“…Rex” is an ambitious modern meditation on gender roles in Elizabethan England. Set in a barn on royal grounds the show imagines Shakespeare and his troupe being visited by Elizabeth I on the eve of her lover’s execution for treason. There’s a lot going on here. The play broaches the subject of homosexuality, gender roles, and romantic love and its costs.
“…Rex” gets many things right; costumes are first rate, the set is elegant and functional in its simplicity, and lighting and sound all work just as they should. Direction, from James Alexander Bond, is assured and astute. I found the blocking of the actors particularly poetic and almost painterly at times.
The cast acquits itself quite well especially considering the youthfulness of so many of its members. Trevor Kimball is a thoughtful Will Shakespeare and Melissa Carroll-Jackson steals every scene she speaks in- shame on you Mistress Tardy, you naughty bawd! Cynde Liffick has the gargantuan task pf playing the titular role and if her performance pales with those of my reference points: Glenda Jackson, Bette Davis, DAME Judi Dench, and Cate Blanchett- well, so be it, heaven knows I’m no Robert Benchley.
“Elizabeth Rex” is a solid evening’s entertainment and should open up some new trains of thought for those who haven’t given Shakespeare’s contemporary circumstances a lot of thought. An educating and thought-provoking evening of enjoyable theater.
Richmond Shakespeare performs “Elizabeth Rex” through May 2 at the Gottwald Playhouse at Richmond Centerstage. For tickets and showtimes, visit http://www.richmondshakespeare.com/.
T.K. Slonaker III is a local free-lance writer who received his BA in English from VCU and concentrated his studies in British Drama.