Ladies First

A blend of Shakespeare plays makes up the bulk of Queen Margaret.

By cutting significant characters and shortening others' revelatory scenes, Potter changes and dilutes the context of Margaret's struggle -- which can be summed up as trying to "make it" in a man's world. Inexplicably, Potter cheapens Margaret's most famous speech, from Act IV, scene iv of Richard III, by using a few lines from it as an end-of-play send-off -- when the speech in question isn't a solitary play-ending valedictory but a penultimate indictment that, in Richard III, anyway, Margaret delivers in the presence of two women whose destinies mirror hers. And Potter mercilessly cuts Henry's most famous speech, "This battle fares like to the morning's war," a magnificent monologue that reveals much about the substance of Henry's character. Sure, he's "more given to prayer than worldly matters," but whittling down Henry's ruminations merely makes him sound like an idiot instead of a too-reflective sort who, since birth, has tragically relied on others -- including the Almighty -- to tell him what to do.

What's strange is that, by Potter's own admission, the great majority of Queen Margaret is lifted directly from Shakespeare's plays. So Potter is still asking the audience to view Margaret principally through the Bard's lens, which shows her as a catalyst and counterpoint to action -- not the central, heroic figure that Potter tries to make of her. By sticking with Shakespeare's basic storyline and treatment but altering both to emphasize Margaret, Potter has changed the focus of the plays without providing enough extra material to make Margaret the trilogy's leading character. Put another way, he's made a miniseries out of a TV show's supporting player -- a vibrant supporting player, to be sure -- while reducing the roles of the main characters and keeping the storyline, structure and dynamics intact. Which is sort of like giving Frasier his own series by watering down the other characters on Cheers and keeping the show set in a Boston bar.

Gloria Biegler and Richard Haratine in Queen Margaret.
Gloria Biegler and Richard Haratine in Queen Margaret.


Presented by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival
Through August 17
303-492-0554 or
University Indoor Theatre, CU-Boulder

If Potter were to add his own material -- especially some that illuminates Margaret's life before she marries Henry -- instead of distorting Shakespeare's trilogy, he might succeed in making Margaret into a heroic figure on a par with, say, the Bard's Richard II, Henry V or Richard III. As it is, she seems like a woman who, as she crawls toward banishment, has left too much unsaid. That might be a clever way to get the audience to see what happens to her next season in the CSF's planned production of Richard III, but it doesn't do enough to make Potter's brave attempt a compelling portrait.

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