By Joseph Geha
By Jonathan Kiefer
By Katie Tandy
By Mollie McWilliams
By Jennifer Baires
By Jonathan Curiel
By Sherilyn Connelly
Jarion Monroe's Richard, however, is more like a villain in an old-fashioned melodrama. He walks with a kind of limp, and carries his left arm as though it bothers him, but otherwise he looks downright dashing in all black. Because he insists on leering and practically winking at the audience every time he sets some nasty plan in motion, we feel we're being invited to hiss and boo. Monroe starts over the top and stays there, teetering, for the entire show.
There's no drama to this Richard because, as interpreted in Grantham's direction, he's a cartoon -- a silly, snarling figure who would be at home in any of the Batman movies. We can't take him seriously, and so we wonder at the ingenuousness of his victims, such as Lady Anne (Michelle Pelletier), whom, after murdering her husband, Richard seduces as she goes to the burial. He should overwhelm her with raw sexuality. Instead, he makes her seem demented, as she finds the rationale for accepting his proposal.
Richard isn't the only character who's over the top. With the exception of Judi Quick, who makes "Mad Margaret" moving and believable (except for her wails as she exits, which I imagine she was instructed to do), and Mark Hurty, who plays a grounded and intelligent Stanley, Earl of Derby, everyone minces, makes faces, grimaces, howls, and acts, acts, acts. They have all bitten off more scenery than they can chew.
America's Sweetheart runs through Aug. 20 at New Conservatory Theatre in S.F.; call 861-8972. Richard III runs through Aug. 20 at Dominican College in San Rafael; call 456-8104.