I seem to be going to previews of revivals… Yesterday afternoon, it was "La Bete" by David Hirson, previewing at the Music Box Theatre with a projected opening date later this week of October 14. Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley star in this talky but engaging modern creation of a French renaissance farce.
The premise is that the Princess, played exquisitely by Lumley, has cast her eye on an itinerant street performer (Valere), played by Rylance, and insists that he be added to her court's theatrical-troop-in-residence, headed by Hyde Pierce (Elomire). The play consists of confrontations between these characters in various combinations, with the most continuous participation of troop member Bejart, played by Stephen Ouimette, the maid Dorine, played by Greta Lee, and late in the play other members of the troop who participate in staging a bizarre little piece by Valere called "The Two Boys from Cadiz."
What makes the play a great comic success is the very witty dialogue, and what makes this performance an over-the-top success is the extraordinary performance by Rylance, who is just fascinating to watch and hear. This is a super virtuoso comic performance. Hyde Pierce is also excellent in a role that requires him to react to Rylance – they play off each other beautifully. And they are all still polishing – imagine how incredible it will be by the time it opens later this week. I was vastly amused, as was the entire audience.
It runs almost two hours with no intermission, but the pacing is so fast you barely notice the time. The costumes and set by Mark Thompson are superbly fitted to the purpose, and the direction by Matthew Warchus is flawless. This should become a hot ticket!!!