Scott Parkinson may be only 29, but he deserves a lifetime achievement award for his portrayal of Richard III in Shakespeare on the Green's current production--most actors need a lifetime to achieve this level of sophistication and cunning. As Shakespeare's misshapen misanthrope--willing to flatter, woo, or behead anybody who stands in his way--Parkinson struts about with sparkling malevolence, withering his opponents with his laser-sharp voice, conning even the most suspicious nobles, and stopping the show now and then to invite the audience to delight in the idiocy of those who fall for his chicanery. With gleeful recklessness he commands every iamb and trochee--an especially remarkable feat in this open-air production, where he must compete with passing airplanes and Metra trains, summer humidity, wineglasses and cheese plates, twinkling stars, and the occasional onstage dragonfly. The rest of director Karla Koskinen's cast may be a mile behind Parkinson, but he sets such a pace that they're still well ahead of the pack. And Koskinen appreciates the pageantry required of outdoor Shakespeare, eliminating all naturalistic fussiness from the stage and pushing her actors to clarify their intentions while indulging their most frantic passions. Of course, you've got to suffer through the play's stretches of near incomprehensibility in acts two and three, as executions and backroom meetings pile up without rhyme or reason. But like the couple on the lawn in front of me, you can stare at the violet sky or doze for a bit, lulled by the sound of beautifully spoken Shakespeare. Barat College, front lawn (or in the Drake Theater in case of bad weather), 700 E. Westleigh, Lake Forest, 847-604-6344. Through August 1: Thursdays-Sundays, 8 PM (grounds open at 6 PM for music and picnicking, and food will be sold on the premises). Free. --Justin Hayford
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jennifer Girard.