Posts Tagged ‘mark rylance’

Best Theater of 2013

December 23, 2013

1. Fun Home – beautiful adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic family memoir by Lisa Kron with top-notch score by Jeanine Tesori, an excellent cast with three Alisons and Michael Cerveris as her closeted gay father, keenly directed by Sam Gold and keenly designed by David Zinn.
fun home diner
2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Julie Taymor’s smart, inventive staging with spectacular scenic design by Es Devlin, costumes by Constance Hoffman, and major performances by Kathryn Hunter, David Harewood, Tina Benko, Max Casella and 20 rambunctious children.

3. Love’s Labours Lost – fast funny musical adaptation of Shakespeare by director Alex Timbers and composer Michael Friedman in Central Park, with a cast of newly minted stage stars.

Love's Labour's Lost Public Theater/Delacorte Theater
4. Good Person of Szechwan – Lear de Bessonet’s excellent funky staging of Brecht’s masterwork at La Mama ETC (later the Public Theater) starring Taylor Mac and other downtown luminaries.

good person prodshot
5. The Designated Mourner – deeply affecting revival of Wallace Shawn’s disturbing play with fine performances by Shawn, Deborah Eisenberg, and Larry Pine directed by Andre Gregory.
6. Here Lies Love – delirious immersive musical about Imelda Marcos by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim staged by Alex Timbers with a game young cast headed by Ruthie Ann Miles.

Here Lies Love Public Theater/LuEsther Hall
7. Pippin – Broadway revival brilliantly staged by Diane Paulus as a circus with an instantly legendary performance by Andrea Martin.
8. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 – a chunk of Tolstoy shaped into a dense, hip musical by Dave Molloy and crisply staged cabaret-style by Rachel Chavkin with a memorable leading performance by Philippa Soo (below) and luxurious costumes by Paloma Young.
phillip soo in natasha pierre
9. The Assembled Parties – Richard Greenberg’s play with a cast of good actors smartly directed by Lynne Meadow.
10. All the Rage – Martin Moran’s monologue about loss, death, life purpose, dreams, and anger, delivered with the same beguiling mixture of writerly detail, grace, and humor that characterized The Tricky Part.

Laramie PC_Michael Lutch
11. The Laramie Project Cycle – Tectonic Theater Project’s documentary about the murder of Matthew Shepard and its aftermath, still powerful 15 years later.
12. The Flick – Annie Baker’s latest crack at mining mundane lives for drama with a richness that bears comparison to Beckett (with whom she shares a reverence for silence) and Chekhov, set in a rundown movie theater (designed with hilarious drabness by David Zinn) with a heartbreaking performance by Matthew Maher (below), directed by Sam Gold.

the flick 2

Honorable Mentions:
Clint Ramos for costuming Here Lies Love and Good Person of Szechwan
Judy Kuhn for her performance as Fosca in John Doyle’s production of Sondheim’s Passion
Marin Ireland for her stylized performance in the title role of David Adjmi’s Marie Antoinette

Mark Rylance for his performance as Olivia in the all-male Twelfe Night on Broadway
Tom Pye’s set design for Deborah Warner’s production of The Testament of Mary
Craig Lucas’s libretto for Nico Muhly’s Two Boys at the Metropolitan Opera
Bernardine Mitchell for her performance as Rose in La Divina Caricatura
John Tiffany’s staging of The Glass Menagerie on Broadway, Bob Crowley’s set, and Celia Keenan-Bolger’s performance as Laura (below)

glass m celia k-b

Performance diary: TWELFTH NIGHT on Broadway

December 1, 2013

twelfth-night-poster-3092311.29.13 –  The production of Twelfth Night – or Twelfe Night, or What You Will, as the playbill officially calls it – at the Belasco Theater on Broadway in rep with The Tragedie of King Richard the Third is a fascinating and fun exercise in historical recreation. The production originated in London at Shakespeare’s Globe and is performed by an all-male cast led by Mark Rylance (who has blown Broadwaygoers’ minds in recent productions of Boeing Boeing, La Bête, and Jerusalem) in a bravura performance as the Countess Olivia. The audience is invited to arrive early to watch the actors onstage getting made up, dressed, and sewn into their costumes. The stage is lit with beeswax candles (and also modern lighting equipment). Meanwhile, a band of musicians entertains on instruments played in Shakespeare’s time but not so much nowadays: shawms, curtal, rauschpfeife, theorbo, cittern, sackbut, and hurdy gurdy. Yes, you get to watch a guy playing hurdy gurdy, an instrument I associate with the circus and Donovan’s hit song “Hurdy Gurdy Man” but had never laid eyes on. Sackbut, too – it’s a kind of Elizabethan trombone. The show is performed with some audience members in boxes onstage and the musicians perched in a gallery over the stage. The three actors who play the female roles pull them off handsomely – besides Rylance (below right), whose outrageous royal costumes and clown makeup suggest The White Queen out of Alice in Wonderland, that would be Samuel Barnett as Viola (below left, he was also wonderful a few seasons ago in The History Boys on Broadway) and Paul Chahidi as Maria. Liam Brennan makes for a sexy and amusing Orsino, and even with his curious Irish (?) accent he nicely pulls off the scene where the Duke finds himself strangely attracted to Cesario, the boy that Viola is pretending to be.

twelfe night 1

Much as I enjoyed these things, ultimately it’s not the best production of Twelfth Night I’ve ever seen. The director, Tim Carroll, worked hard to ground these characters in believable reality but several of the performances feel like missed opportunities. I’m so not a fan of broad comedy, but certain roles demand it or they either don’t make sense or just wind up boring the audience, both of which are true of Peter Hamilton Dyer’s Feste. I’ve seen productions where Sir Andrew Aguecheek stole every scene he was in. I’m thinking of a production I saw in 1978 at Brandeis University in which Robert Moberly’s Sir Andrew surpassed Jean Marsh’s Olivia and Ellis Rabb’s Malvolio. That doesn’t come close to happening with Angus Wright’s anemic performance. It’s great to see Stephen Fry, a masterful performer and witty writer, undertake Malvolio, but the scene where he confronts the trio who humiliated him has zero emotional weight, strange after the effort put into making him a flesh-and-blood character. Always one of the trickiest scenes to pull off is the recognition scene where Viola in boy-drag comes face-to-face with her twin brother Sebastian, whom she thought died in the shipwreck that washed her ashore. Here, it does not succeed.

In many productions the music comes close to stealing the show. I still remember some songs from my college theater department’s production, and Jeanine Tesori’s score for Nicholas Hytner’s 1998 staging at Lincoln Center (prime candidate for Best Twelfth Night I’ve Ever Seen) stands up to this day. The music for this production, chosen and arranged by Claire van Kampen (Mark Rylance’s wife and longtime Shakespearean collaborator), is scrupulously faithful to the historical record – and dull. Oops.

I know, picky-picky. Most people are loving the production and you’ll walk away mostly with images of Rylance’s performance in your head, his gliding walk and the way he moves that dress around the stage.


Theater review: LA BETE

December 11, 2010

I dragged my heels about seeing the Broadway revival of David Hirson’s La Bete because I’d seen the original production, a valiant and smart but short-lived production, and felt like I’d already checked it off the list. I knew people were raving about Mark Rylance’s performance in the central role, and I know he’s a fine actor (above left, with David Hyde Pierce), but I saw him last year in Boeing Boeing and just thought the show was stupid and his performance overrated. Nevertheless, reading John Lahr’s review in the New Yorker inspired me to understand the contemporary political significance of the play, so I arranged to see it, and I’m glad I did. It is indeed a smart and provocative play about culture today, but it’s also a ripping good show. You can read my CultureVulture review online here.

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