Richard 3

By William Shakespeare; Adapted and directed by James Presson

BOTTOM LINE: An incredibly well-realized production, particularly for the Fringe.

Violence and blood and betrayal, then some more blood, some more betrayal and a punk song: such goes Less Than Rent Productions' Richard 3. To state the somewhat obvious, Richard 3 is a reworking of Shakespeare's Richard III. Director James Presson sets his adaptation in punked-out London after a nuclear war has destroyed the city. He cuts and pastes the story together using snippets of Shakespeare, modern language, and punk songs sung both acappella and with an on-stage three piece band. "Artsy" and "innovative" reimaginings of Shakespeare have been done and done again, so Presson took a significant risk in attempting to bring new life to a classic tale; in the end, the risk paid off. There are elements of his exploration that don't work - for example, we never really get that the show is set in a nuclear wasteland without the press material guiding us in that direction. But the violence and intensity of Richard III fit very nicely into the punk rock world Presson has created.

The crew over at Less Than Rent Productions has done a skillful job of making their production look particularly well put together, especially considering that it's the Fringe Fest. From the use of their multi-level theater space, to their delightfully eccentric costumes and obviously intensely rehearsed musical numbers, Richard 3 gives the impression of a mid-budget off-Broadway show. The large ensemble cast tackles all of the material, modern and classical, with ease. With the help of Presson's direction, the cast makes the transition between the different styles appear seamless. While at two hours and no intermission it is a bit long for a Fringe show, Richard 3 is well worth the time.

(Richard 3 plays at the The Ellen Stewart Theatre at La MaMa, 66 East 4th Street, through August 20th. Remaining performances are Thursday 8/19 at 4:30pm and Friday 8/20 at 9:15pm. For more information visit Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door, and are available at, by calling 866.468.7619, or in person at FringeCENTRAL, located at 1 East 8th Street at 5th Avenue. There is NO LATE SEATING for Fringe NYC shows.)