NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage

What great fun it was to be in the 10-month international tour of Shakespeare’s Richard III with Kevin Spacey in the lead and Sam Mendes directing. That’s the gist of Jeremy Whelehan’s puff piece, which should serve as a fine keepsake for anyone who caught the production or really wanted to. Here we meet the first transatlantic theater company, a rich stockpile of British and American actors with different degrees of Bard familiarity, and see them bonding harmoniously in the show or in backstage preparation and off-hours sightseeing. Once it achieves a certain critical mass of group dune-buggy rides and soundtrack cymbal swells, the whole project seems less a chronicle of or exegesis on playmaking than just some weird special episode of The Bachelor. (“On tonight’s group date, Kevin hosts a yacht ride around the Amalfi coast, while some cast members hope to figure out just where they stand…”) It’s as cozy and self-congratulating as you’d expect from a thing executive-produced and distributed by Spacey, who, before plunging into the American version of House of Cards, clearly enjoyed warming up as one of literature’s most famous political villains. Speaking of the creation of monsters, in this particular bit of “blockbuster theater,” as one crew member calls it, Mendes seems a little stuck between staginess and starfuckery, but of course that worked for him before: He and Spacey both got Oscars for American Beauty. As for their undeniably momentous Richard III, well, yes, it must have been fun.