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La Bete!

November 8, 2010

La Bete = “The Beast”

This Broadway play showing at The Music Box at 239 W. 45th Street in Manhattan is hilarious, as well as astonishing in the sheer volume of verbiage spewed forth (literally) in the first thirty minutes or so by Mark Rylance playing the character of Valere, a street actor whose little productions have attracted the attention of The Princess (Joanna Lumley, best known for her role as patsy Stone in “Absolutely Fabulous”) who has taken it upon herself to write an order demanding that Valere be allowed to join the acting troupe headed up by Elomire, David Hyde-Pierce, who is supported by a special dispensation from The Princess herself. Needless to say, Elomire does NOT want the verbose street urchin Valere anywhere near his brilliant acting troupe OR his plays and puts up a fight, which The Princess does not much appreciate.

I will not state what happens in the end, but the fact alone that the entire play is done in rhyme should tell you something; it seems an impossible feat to do such a thing without it sounding contrived, stilted, and ridiculous, but it is so well done I didn’t even notice it at first and eventually found myself trying to find them all.

There is no question that the character of Valere played by Mr. Rylance totally steals the show, but then again, how couldn’t he? He talks incessantly! But David Hyde-Pierce and Stephen Ouimette (who plays Bejart, Elomire’s assistant and friend) play perfectly off of Rylance’s nutty character to give the show just the right effect.

The special effects are minimal but great, especially the shower of gold glitter announcing the entrance of The Princess into the library, an over-the-top spoof on the aura of royalty if ever there was one. And Joanna Lumley plays the part of a princes to perfection, especially since this princess is either dripping with honey or shrieking like The Queen of Hearts, an act of schizophrenia that Lumley is particularly suited to performing and one that made me wonder in the end exactly which character the title of the play ultimately refers to.

The theater is a bit small and the seats crowded, but the show holds so much interest this is a minor inconvenience at worst. Once you’re seated you’re there for the duration, as the play is short enough at an hour and forty-five minutes to avoid the necessity of an intermission.

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