Posts Tagged ‘Mark Rylance’

Mini-review – Nice Fish – Harold Pinter Theater

November 29, 2016

Obviously with Mark Rylance being such a genius and all, it’s “miss it at your peril” whenever he decides to hit the stage again. So I bought super cheap tickets for Nice Fish knowing nothing about it other than MARK RYLANCE WOO and then was overjoyed to discover I’d manage to bag seats for a 90 minute show. Wahoo! And it got better because we were magically upgraded to a BOX SEAT. Now, mind you, this meant that a fifth of the stage was invisible, and there were actually some bizarre things going on on the edge of the stage (puppets, a man standing around), but the LEGROOM and the TABLE. If only we’d had something to drink. Alas.

So Nice Fish is ostensibly about two men who are ice fishing in Minnesota. It is also about pretty much anything BUT ice fishing. There is certainly a lot of talking, and a lot of being silly, and it seems like it might have some point to it. It could have been about the nature of friendship … it could have been about the nature of Americans (you’ll certainly get some insights, as there’s no doubt in my mind that Ron (Mark Rylance) and Eric (Jim Lichtscheidl) are profoundly American in ways that I found oddly relaxing) … but a lot of the big moments that we’re moved between, on a road peppered with conversations about baloney sandwiches, Moby Dick, and the relative merit of different kinds of vitamins … is conversations about the nature of life. Yep. we are watching an absurdist existentialist drama, somewhere between Happy Days (you know, the woman buried below her neck in sand) and Tree, but with none of the “yeah it’s all just waiting for death” of Albee and a lot more of the “it’s actually about the journey, and maybe having a little bit of a laugh” of the Kitson piece.

In the end, this play doesn’t choose to hit you in the head with some big existentialist revelation (even though it does have a piscis ex machina in the final scene), but the semblance of the experience of endurance ice fishing combined with the moments of shimmering metaphors – like a brown trout flashing in a beam of sunshine – is actually rather fulfilling. You sit down, you sit back, you take a moment (or ninety) just to have experiences. It’s actually almost a mini-lesson in how to live life. And in that, the play was successful – not quite genius but still a perfect little lesson in zen.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday, November 28, 2016. It continues through February 11th, 2017.)

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Mini-review – Twelfth Night (with Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry) – Apollo Theater

December 1, 2012

As this show is a transfer from this fall’s production at the Globe, it seems a bit late to be getting in a review of Twelfth Night – it’s already transferred to the Apollo and opening night has come and gone. But I hadn’t seen it yet … well, okay, I saw a production of it a few years back, and to be honest I’m not much for this play. I don’t like seeing Malvolio abused and the central story is not really compelling. But, well, there was Mark Rylance to consider … he is truly an amazing actor. That said, I wasn’t willing to play groundling to see this show at the Globe, and the Apollo transfer is mostly sold out and unaffordable. But then a friend really wanted to go (he liked another actor in the production), and he didn’t care about the price, and so I went and wheedled the people at the box office for returns and suddenly there I was with a pair of tickets in “row O (extra legroom, amazing)” with ace views … and my friend was stuck at the airport due to a royal cock-up with Iberia and missing the show.

Now, really, I have written more than I have to say in the review. ARGH. It’s because I’ve been sick lately and my energy levels have been crap. I’ve managed to keep seeing shows but it’s basically like I’m propped up with a stick and I fall over afterwards. Bonus: I am fully open to being emotionally receptive to a show. Negative: writing is very, very hard.

The Twelfth Night seems to be the first Shakespeare I’ve ever seen that’s been fully, 100% period, bringing me back to the days when I was poring over my husband’s costume history books while he was in graduate school and I was learning about how sleeves could be tied on and slashed to show the wearer’s wealth. As a bonus to the delicious costuming, the whole thing was accompanied by proper period music. My god, what a treat! Sackbuts, archlutes, and shawms ahoy! And for fun, there were two little split-level buildings on the side of the stage where audience members were packed in eyeball to eyeball with the actors. What fun! If those are the day seats, I’ll warn that the view will be very odd and you will miss some stuff, but the opportunity to have Viola launch herself at you or hold Sir Toby Belch’s bottle of booze is not to be sniffed at.

Despite the high attention to period detail, this felt like a stripped down production, with sets mostly consisting of a table and benches with one rotating shrubbery. The focus is meant to be the play, and it felt a bit like the all-male cast was meant to further keep your attention on the words and less on the stage dressing. However, having a man in the role of Viola (Johnny Flynn, ever so yummy) made the complexity of a character that is a woman pretending to be a man … while _played_ by a man … just a tiny bit more brain bending than it would have been otherwise. One of the very best scenes in this production is where Orsino encourages Viola-disguised-as-Cesario to sympathetically mope about love unrequited … while Viola all but pants with desire. In this case, Orsino (Liam Brennan) most intriguedly checks Viola out, as if to say, “Is there something here I’m not getting?” And we’re of course wanting to shout, “For God’s sake, she’s really a girl! Only … it’s a guy! But she’s still really hot!” And the whole thing about collapsed into Victor/Victoria all over again.

Meanwhile, Rylance was, er, fine as Olivia, moving around like he was wearing rollerskates, absolutely as buried in the role as he was in Rooster, with not a bit of Rylance visible, really, through the black gown and veil. But oddly, amongst these many fine actors, it was Olivia’s maid Maria (Paul Chahidi) I loved the most, charming and hammy and giggle-making. Chahidi was no longer a man in a dress but just a funny, funny actor with a role that let him/her fill the stage with personality. It just was not what I expected, that this lesser character in the side plot would be the one that had me sitting in my (very comfy) seat and just basking in her glow: but so it was. Overall: a well-executed production, but not an unmissable one, though this will be the Maria by which I shall judge all others. And Flynn: well, if I figure out what bar the cast hangs out at after the show, as soon as I’ve shaken off this damned illness I’ll be having a pint there regularly, say around 11 PM.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, November 27th, 2012. It continues through February 9th, 2013.)

Review – La Bête – Comedy Theatre (London – then Music Box Theater, New York)

August 17, 2010

I was a little late getting to see La Bete – the West End Whingers’ rave was well over a month old before I got a call from a friend saying, “Take me to see something good!” What can I say about July, I was just too busy to fit another show in, but then suddenly it was mid-August, I still hadn’t seen it, and I had noticed as I was planning my trip to New York that it was transferring to the Music Box Theater so there was no chance of an extension and by God, if I was going to go see it, I needed to get a move on, and my friend’s visit seemed the ideal opportunity to finally GO.

I had seen tickets available fairly regularly through the TKTS office, but they had none at all yesterday, and my fallback LastMinute.com had exactly one ticket – not really helpful! I’d really disliked the last play I saw from the uppermost balcony of the Comedy(the play was fine but the view was so bad it was actively irritating) and really didn’t want utterly crap tickets – and yet, as it turned out, the side of the first balcony ticket that I got (giving my friend the more expensive seat next to me – we split the cost for the two and used some theatre tokens to make up the difference) still had an irritatingly blocked view of about a fifth of the stage – the left side – where people insisted on standing and sitting and making entrances for rather a lot of the show. I was pretty irritated that what I had was supposed to be a 35 quid ticket – it was more like a 10 pound ticket with as much of the view as I had. Consider yourself warned.

The better question, of course, was how good was the show? Well, I didn’t know a think about it other than that one actor I’d recently been impressed by was in it and that it had a French title and that the Whingers gave it a five wine glass review – and I thought it was hysterical. Well, okay, maybe it wasn’t hysterical, maybe there was a scene or two where it was a bit slow and I assumed that it was just being dragged out because they had to get in all of the words that were in the original script, but I let that ride because I was having a good time. I was astounded by Mark Rylance’s ability to hold a stage for a 20 minute long monologue (was that it?) while his character’s offensiveness snowballed to degrees that I thought either of the two actors on stage might have hit him just to get him to shut up – when he mocked someone’s handicap it just kind of jumped the shark, as if … well, I don’t want to spoil any of the fun. Watching two characters – Rylance (playing Valere) and David Hyde Pierce (as the playwright Elomire) – go head to head in an attempt to win over Princess Compti (Joanna Lumley) was just as much fun as watching the evil, shrewd characters in a real Moliere play take each other on, and I was riveted to my seat for the entire 1:45 running time (thus making it a perfect after-work play).

In retrospect, I discovered that this wasn’t actually a rehashed Moliere play at all, but a modern American play (circa 1991) with no debt to Moliere at all other than for general flavor. The various bits of extremely modern language and excessive crassness and even the actors’ descriptions of different performance methodologies were not one of them ported over – they were all new. Still, with as much classical theater as I see, I found myself perfectly situated to enjoy this play, and the things I thought didn’t fit in terms of the “apparent” time of the play worked just as well as Shakespearean plays set in, oh, medieval Italy or ancient Greece. And the “argument” of the play within the play – and the subsequent interpretations of what it’s actual meaning was by Rylance and Hyde Pierce – was deliciously addressed to today’s modern money-obsessed theater culture. After all, did the director not cast a television actor – an American, nonetheless – in one of the lead roles, in a blatant move to make the play sell when it was ported to America? And did he not flesh it out with a transnational cult star (Joanna Lumley) and this year’s Hot Not-so-young Man on Stage?

Rather frustratingly for me (as I really would have liked to have turned my nose up at any instance of celebrity casting), the actors were actually all just really on the mark. And, maybe, when it comes down to it, this is just a piece of hollow entertainment and I’m a shallow person who mistakes clever wordplay and crass buffoonery for High Art. Well, wait, no I’m not, I know this play wasn’t really particularly deep, but it was certainly clever enough for me and a good night out, and, when it comes down to it, in my book that means La Bête richly achieved Job One of a theatrical production: it rewarded me for spending my hard earned money and not-so-copious free time in a chair in a theater. I might think it’s a bit overpriced at the rates The Comedy is charging, but it’s certainly a good show, and I think that the transfer will do very well; this should well please New York audiences looking for a witty show well done by actors at the peak of their game.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Monday August 16th, 2010. La Bete continues at the Comedy through September 4th, then moves to New York for a run at the Music Box theater that starts September 23rd; though that’s officially a preview I’d say don’t hesitate to book before the official opening night because this cast has spent plenty of time getting it down right and you should be getting a very fully formed show long before the official opening night of October 14th. For more reviews, please see UpTheWestEnd.com.)

2010 Olivier Awards – did they deserve it?

March 22, 2010

Reviewing the final list of winners for the 2010 Olivier awards, I had to ask myself: did they deserve it? Aside from Spring Awakening, I did manage to see pretty much every show that got a nod (well, a major nod – Hello Dolly also slipped through my fingers due to being staged outdoors). So, first, a look at the shows that won minor awards (each linked to my original review).

PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT – THE MUSICAL: Best Costume Design I have continued to be mystified by the popularity of this thin on the ground musical. But one thing I wouldn’t deny: it’s got great costumes. In fact, that was about the only think I really liked about the show.

The Brandstrup-Rojo project’s GOLDBERG: Best New Dance Production I disagree with this. The production was nice but the output sterile. I’m sure there was something better out there that was overlooked. Did Birmingham Royal Ballet’s E=MC2 just not count? They did it in London, too …

Royal Court for COCK at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs: Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre Well, this show was my pick for best of the year, so I’d say: yeah, damned right it was an outstanding achievement. Or perhaps “upstanding” would be more appropriate.

So – this leaves the shows that were up for the major awards. Only one thing surprised me: CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF: Best Revival I thought this cat was a dog. Did the performances improve tremendously after the time I saw it? I sure hope so.

Meanwhile, there’s no doubt that JERUSALEM deserved its best actor award for Mark Rylance (though I don’t think it really hit Best Set Design – was the competition slim, or did the live chicken make the difference?). I, however, just never really “got” this play, much as I wasn’t able to quite buy Rachel Weisz (Best Actress, A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse) as Blanche DuBois. Not that she was bad, mind you, but Ruth Wilson (Best Actress in a Supporting Role, same show) inhabited her role with seamless perfection.

So we’re left with the top new play of the year. I actively go see new plays, so this is a category that matters to me. And Enron (Best Director: Rupert Goold), well, it had good direction, but it wasn’t a story for all time. And … I hate to say it … but … Jerusalem … it may be where England is here and now, but it didn’t move me. Me? I’ve been to THE MOUNTAINTOP (Best New Play), and I saw the promised land, a land where artists lose themselves completely in their roles, where I learn more about the world, where I walk out with my skin shivering with excitement. Hats off to you, Katori Hall, for making theatrical magic happen: you really deserved it.