It can't be mere coincidence that the words fashion and fascist sound so much alike, particularly when we've repeatedly observed the tender mercies visited upon celebrities past their expiration date. As a character in another one of this week's plays puts it, for such public figures, it's either the limelight—or the wilderness.
Richie, Little Green Pig's imaginative, all-women pub-crawl, transforms Richard II into a cross between All About Eve and Lord of the Flies. Still, this hybrid stays a bit closer to the former than the latter as it traverses just under a mile of downtown Durham clubland.
It makes sense. Shakespeare depicted the monarch as a vainglorious party boy surrounded by yes-men who set him up for a fall. In this reframing, Richie (vivid Dana Marks) is a celebrity whose crew has run amok among the nightclubs of Cannes (themselves portrayed by a quintet of watering holes on Geer Street and Rigsbee Avenue).
A fight between Tamara Kissane's almost demure Bolingbroke and Lakeisha Coffey's intemperate Mowbray upsets the order among the entourage. The self-serving decisions that follow further destabilize this microsocial order. But compared with the work of playwrights such as Kia Corthron who've depicted true splits in girl gangs, the stakes remain too evanescent too long.
There's no shortage of strong supporting work. Susannah Hough impresses as an alcoholic, divided elder York; Flynt Burton's Finchy is caught changing allegiances by an accuser ably played by Amanda Hahn; and Hope Hynes Love takes no prisoners as Berzerker. The crew is costumed by an eye-popping quintet of local fashion designers.
Though largely left intact, Shakespeare's script is upgraded to reflect our technologies and media. Although there's a delightful frisson when entourage members capture various falls from grace on their iPhone cameras, global word replacements (like "star" and "celebrity" for "king") snag the ear—and don't improve parts including Jane Holding's "sceptered isle" variant in Act Two.
As in the original, it all ends poorly for the title character. And in any other year, Richie's thesis, that celebrities actually constitute our version of royalty, would hold more weight.
But presently, it's non-celebrities who are currently making nationwide efforts to enshrine themselves as our new ruling class. For the next two months we will see them on every television and Internet page and hear them on every radio. That inconvenient fact ultimately leaves Richie's observations with a nagging sense of being a sideshow.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Head cases."