The rarely produced play is onstage at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company Downtown through Feb. 3. Photo by Jeanna Vella.
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Onstage: Richard II

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By Rick Pender for CityBeat

England's first King Richard, "the Lionhearted," spent much of his 12th-century reign away from home on Crusades. The third of that name is famous as the murderous, 15th-century hunchbacked villain of Shakespeare's Richard III. But Shakespeare also wrote a play about King Richard II, the 14th-century king known more for his vanity and ineptitude than for his prowess as a leader, a ruler forced to give up the throne.

In fact, Shakespeare's Richard agonizes about why he, a man supposedly empowered by God, is so ineffective. But who among us doesn't have some self-doubt? Although Richard II is rarely produced — Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is finally staging it during its 19th season — actor Brent Vimtrup told me he's relishing the title role in a play suffused with gorgeous poetry. Just three weeks to catch it (closing Feb. 3). Thursday-Sunday. $22-$32. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, 719 Race St., Over-the-Rhine. 513-381-2273, http://cincyshakes.com .

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