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JAN. 16-FEB 2
Looking for Richard? You’d expect to find him in a show devoted to an overview of the Bard’s baaad lieutenants. But Oberon and Hamlet? Steven Berkoff’s legendary perversity apparently leads him to real darkness at the heart of the king fairy and the indecisive Dane, who aren’t usually ranked with Iago and Shylock, Macbeth and his Lady. But if this exploration of unpleasantness in the Shakespearean canon turns out to be in any way a stretch, the calisthenics at least ought to be wild and invigorating: Berkoff’s a singularly compelling onstage presence—and the author not just of the excoriating classics-update Greek (which played at Scena a few seasons back), but also of such hysterical screeds as Kvetch, which reduced Woolly Mammoth audiences to convulsive howls in the ’90s. He’s politically engaged enough (see his adaptations of Metamorphosis and The Trial) to look to situation and society for the roots of much of the villainy he considers here. But you don’t have to be a political animal or a verse junkie to get a charge out of Berkoff; he’s fun outside the theater, too. (He played nasty in Rambo, Octopussy, and Beverly Hills Cop, if you remember, and he once issued a public death threat against a critic who pissed on his Hamlet.) Expect more pointed words about reviewers, academics, actors, and audiences alike—plus anecdotes on performing and producing—as part of “Shakespeare’s Villains,” which the New York Times shorthands as “part pedagogy, part snippy stand-up, and part tour de force acting dazzle.” The program runs to Sunday, Feb. 2, at the Studio Theatre’s Milton Theatre, 1333 P St. NW. $30.25-$44.25. (202) 332-3300; see City List for details. (Trey Graham)