AN EXPERIMENTAL RETELLING of Richard III. It's a tough sell, but Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble's heavily edited, pared-down R3 is a compelling effort, mercifully dotted with enough notes of humor and silliness to puncture the self-seriousness that at times threatens to swamp the endeavor.

This version of Richard focuses on the "female perspective," and the wives and mothers whose husbands and sons were murdered by Richard in his quest to gain the throne. The cast's five women are striking and black-clad, in high, jagged collars and sheer hooped skirts, casting strategic shadows across the bare stage.

These actresses take on multiple roles—including male characters—and I couldn't help but wish a woman had been given a crack at Richard himself. Jacob Coleman's hunched, skittering Richard is flimsy in the face of the hair-raising anger channeled by Shelley Virginia as Queen Margaret, for example. As the only man in the show, Coleman's gamboling Richard doesn't quite anchor all these vengeful, wounded women.