richardthesecond written and performed by Matthew MacFadzean, directed by Rebecca Brown. Presented by Nation of Aslan and Players by Nature at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson). Runs to October 27, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, late night Friday 11 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $17.50, Tuesday pwyc. 416-504-7529. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Matthew Macfadzean's richard thesecond rules. This disturbing look at the soullessness of pop culture and consumerism feels even more relevant than it did when it premiered two years ago at the SummerWorks fest.Once again MacFadzean plays Richie Excellent, a TV-obsessed raver with a poetic streak who swivels around in his white chair regaling us with glib observations about his media-saturated life and times.
Punched up with current pop cult references like The Osbournes and The Weakest Link, MacFadzean's script is full of dead-on observations and the occasional howler ("I want to be taken serious, Joshua Tree serious"). The title points both to the Shakespeare source -- Richie's downfall mirrors the ineffectual king's -- and to one of the play's more disturbing themes.
While the script loses tension at the halfway mark, director Rebecca Brown and designers Rebecca Picherack and Iain Miller ensure that things are always zapping, shining or pulsing -- appropriate for a piece about limited attention spans.
And MacFadzean, one of the best actors of his generation, has complete control over his character. He can deaden his eyes to appear machine-like or flatten his voice in a glib parody of pop-culture-obsessed banality.
His delivery of the show's final moments adds up to one of the most haunting denouements this season.