My favorite instance of Kevin Spacey's bad-assery comes not from any of his acerbic, acidic movie characters, but from his lesser-known career in live theater. Lesser-known, that is, until he started to break the fourth wall in a 2011 production of Richard III, courtesy his own London theater company, The Old Vic.
His targets were long overdue for an onstage thrashing--the cell-phone talkers, the incorrigible chatterers, the amateur videographers, the candy-wrapper-openers, and other miscreant ticket-buyers--and the performances of Shakespeare's cautionary tale became as known for Spacey's off-script scolding as his dramatizations of the titular king. "Tell them we're busy," his "Richard" barked at one incessant cell-phone user in Sydney; on another night, he produced a laser pointer from his royal tunic and shone it on a group of noisemaking patrons, embarrassing them in front of everyone. When David Letterman asked him what the typical actor protocol is for dealing with disturbing theatergoers, Spacey responded, in pure Spacey fashion, "I don't give a shit."
Perhaps the actor's rogue tendencies toward unmannered audiences will be addressed in a new documentary, NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage, which captures the backstage preparations and onstage dramas of the Old Vic production, across its 200-plus performances on three continents. The movie plays for one night only, May 15, at O Cinema Miami Shores at Miami Theater Center, and the theater's founder, Kareem Tabsch, is thrilled with the opportunity to premiere it locally.
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"I think Kevin Spacey is one of the greatest actors of his generation, and the opportunity to see him play perhaps the greatest villain (maybe even the greatest character) ever written is a sheer joy and a pleasure," Tabsch says. "The bard's been dead for nearly 400 years, and in that time countless actors have interpreted Richard III, each bringing their own sensibilities to the role. Perhaps one of the most exciting things that Spacey brings is his mass appeal, which may introduce new people to the work of Shakespeare outside of their high school English class."
Indeed, Richard III is a role that has been embodied by such acclaimed thespians as Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh, Alec Guinness, and, um, John Wilkes Booth--esteemed shoes for the House of Cards star to fill. And critics say that the greatest pleasure of NOW is not so much the backstage access but simply experiencing Spacey's fevered performance in high-def.
Thursday's screening will be followed by a panel discussion on the current state and future of South Florida theater, with special guests Joe Adler, of GableStage, and Stephanie Ansin, of Miami Theater Center. Tabsch even says there may be some "surprise guests" joining via Skype. Tickets cost $7.50-$11, and the movie begins at 7 p.m. O Cinema at Miami Theater Center is located at 9806 N.E. Second Ave. in Miami Shores. Call 786-565-3456 or visit o-cinema.org.