Teenage Dick

DramaWatch: High-school drama of historical dimensions

Artists Rep takes Shakespeare back to school with the "Richard III" adaptation "Teenage Dick"; plus, a shortlist of Second Season shows.

Richard of Gloucester was a dick.

At least that’s impression we’re given by Shakespeare in his history play Richard III, in which this man (among many) who would be king is presented as deformed, less so for his hunchback than for his moral turpitude. Shakespeare wrote his account more than a century after Richard’s death, and some historians contend that his nasty portrait of the last Plantagenet king was propaganda on behalf of the Tudor dynasty that followed Richard. (For example, the king’s long-lost remains were found in 2012 and suggest that he was short and had one shoulder slightly higher than the other, but no hunchback.) Even so, the seething, conniving Richard of Shakespeare dominates his public image still.

And anyway, these days we might certainly call him a Dick.

If he was a modern American 17-year-old, he’d be, of course, a teenage Dick.

Mike Lew’s play Teenage Dick — which premiered last year at the Public Theater and which opens Saturday at

Christopher Imbrosciano plays Richard Gloucester — a high school stand-in for Shakespeare’s Richard III — in “Teenage Dick” at Artists Rep. Photo: David Kinder.

Artists Rep in a production directed by Josh Hecht — re-imagines Shakespeare’s tale of England’s contested monarchy during the 15th-century War of the Roses as high school high drama with the high stakes of the senior class presidency. It’s a loose adaptation, trading on the basic premise of an outsider’s manipulative bid for power. The intricacies of relations and animosities between the House of York and the House of Lancaster give way to a cast of six and a simple division between familiar classes of popular and unpopular kids. And, whereas lots of Shakespeare adaptations are larded with Bard-lover in-jokes, Lew relies more on his Richard Gloucester’s penchant for ridiculously high-flown language (he’ll use a $10 word such as “tenebrosity” in the same speech he’ll say “apeshit”).

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