"Now is the winter of our discontent ..."
Admit it: Just reading the lines from the first scene of Shakespeare's "Richard III" gives you chills.
The poetry, the foreboding, the eloquence.
So imagine hearing the words spoken out loud by an actor who gets the rhythm and meaning of the words.
Now's your chance: The Rogue Theatre's production of "Richard III" hits the stage tonight.
"There is so much in this (play) that is exciting and interesting and beautiful," says Cynthia Meier, the director of the production and one of the founders of Rogue Theatre. Her co-founder, Joseph McGrath, plays the role of the humpbacked and quite evil Richard.
"It's a great night in the theater," she says.
"Richard III" is one of Shakespeare's earlier plays, one of his longest (it's been cut to a manageable time, Meier says), and though it's most often referred to as a history play, some have called it a tragedy.
It is both. Richard III was England's monarch for two years. That's the history part. The tragedy: He was not a nice guy. Many accounts have him getting to the throne through manipulation and murder.
And those are the accounts that the Bard pulled from.
Richard III was a greedy man; he wanted it all, including the crown.
"The theme of unbridled ambition is an interesting" one, Meier says.
It's a theme that was not unique to Richard III's era (the mid-1400s), or to when it was written (in the late 1500s).
"It sounds like all times," Meier says of the play.
"One of the great things about Shakespeare is (he shows that) in every age people will do what they need to do to get their way.
"The carnage that happens in Richard III's world, and our world today ... you don't have to look very far to see examples of Richard's behavior."
It may be relevant throughout the ages, but it's still a hard play to do: Richard III is not a very likable character.
Which means McGrath has got to do a little manipulation himself to get the audience to buy into the play.
"It's essential that he get the audience intrigued and in his confidence," Meier says.
"It could be that people will begin to root for Richard - it's possible."
Even if they don't, he's a character that is difficult to ignore - he is one of Shakespeare's creepiest villains.
Meier thinks part of his nastiness comes from his physical deformity.
"There's the sense that 'the rest of the world has shunned me, so I'm going to shun them,' " she says. "That's fundamental about him. He's not attractive, can't wear fancy clothes. Out of that comes his rage at the world."
Sure, there are lots of dark sides to this play. But Shakespeare knew when to put in a bit of frivolity.
"Any possible laugh lines were left in," says Meier, who cut the play herself.
"Unless we're seduced through humor and charm, we won't sit there while people are being bludgeoned. That would make for a pretty long night."
If you go
• What: The Rogue Theatre's production of "Richard III."
• By: William Shakespeare.
• Director: Cynthia Meier.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through May 12. There will be an additional 2 p.m. matinee on May 11.
• Where: 300 E. University Blvd., in the Historic Y.
• Tickets: $20 Thursday performances: $30 for all others.
• Reservations, information: theroguetheatre.org or 551-2053.
• Cast: Susan Arnold, Matt Bowdren, James Cockrell, Marissa Garcia, David Greenwood, Craig Howard, Cynthia Jeffery, Christopher Johnson, Kathryn Kellner Brown, Ryan Parker Knox, Joseph McGrath, Steve McKee, David Morden, Roger Owen, Dylan Page, Lee Rayment, Eli Renteria, and Matthew Walley.
• Running time: 2 1/2 hours, with one intermission.
• Get there early: The Rogue has pre-show music that starts 15 minutes before curtain.
Did you know?
Last August, the remains of King Richard III, who was killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, were found buried under a parking lot in Leicester, England.
Sure there was skepticism, but modern science allowed us to find out for sure. DNA pulled from the bones matched the DNA of a Canadian cabinetmaker who is a direct descendent of the king's sister, as well as that of a distant cousin, CNN reported in February. Beyond that, the skeleton bore battle scars and signs of scoliosis, which would explain Richard's curved spine. But not his humped back - that part of the history may have to be revised.
His body was riddled with serious wounds - two severe ones to the head. There also was evidence of what was termed "humiliation injuries" inflicted after death, including one "caused by a thrust through the right buttock," said the report from the scientists who examined the remains. That makes sense; historical records indicate that his naked body was displayed in Leicester, and the guy was not a popular one at the time.
Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at email@example.com or 573-4128.