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Shakespeare's extremely carnivorous Richard III was presented last night at the Wilbur theatre by Fritz Leiber and his company before one of the largest audiences that has attended these performances since they have been in Boston. As in "Lear" the actor is here again presented with the problem of giving a play which has very little dramatic precedent, but the result did not particularly suffer from this. Mr. Leiber in the part of the unscrupulous and ambitious Duke of Gloster gives a very cold interpretation. There is no ranting passion and violent action, but merely the bloodless, calculating sneer of the subtle egoist, all of which is as it should be.
Mr. Leiber takes great pains by his asides and gestures to convey that he has but one thought in mind and that is to set himself safely on the throne at all costs. In his wooing of Lady Anne, widow of Edward, Prince of Wales, whose blood is scarcely dry on his sword, Gloster presents his suit with all of the cunning of a snake charming its prospective prey. The lady assents, and as she departs Mr. Leiber gives a very emphatic sneer and a disparaging remark on the constancy of women. All through the play he uses men as his tools and then throws them aside with no compunction. There is no excitement about it; they have done their part, are no longer useful and are dismissed with nothing more for their pains than a bitter smile. Only at the end, with the forces of Richmond closing in upon him does this Ubermench show any signs of becoming human. Then, and only then does Mr. Leiber relinquish his aloof bitterness and resort to raving. His restrained and inhuman interpretation of this part is thoroughly in keeping with the intelligence, but warped ego of the Prince.
The other members of the cast are not so good. Vera Allen as Lady Anne did well in an exceedingly difficult part, but most of the others were nothing more than satisfactory. In spite of the exceptional amount of cutting in her part that was necessary to make the play fit into the modern stage time limits, she was able to convey something of an actual character to the part she played. She was won over by Richard not so much by her lack of insight, as by his extreme cleverness. She left the impression that she was a woman in the hands of a clever fiend rather than just a puppet. All in all, for a play that is given so infrequently, it was well worth seeing.
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