Mark Rylance, Joanna Lumley Get Tony-Worthy Reviews for ‘La Bete’

La Bête, the new Broadway comedy starring Mark Rylance, David Hyde Pierce, and AbFab‘s Joanna Lumley, gets a mostly positive review from The New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley. He absolutely raves about the performances, singling out British Shakespeare vet Rylance, whom he says “delivers a comic performance of such polished crudeness that it easily ranks with his Tony-winning tour-de-farce in Boeing-Boeing of two years ago.”

In this production, which previously had a successful run on London’s West End, Rylance plays Valere, a boorish, flatulent playwright who comes up against Hyde Pierce’s Elomiere, the established artist who deems Valere crass and lowbrow. Lumley plays the Princess, the patron of the dueling writers who desperately wants them to collaborate.

Brantley calls Hyde Pierce “a first-rate glowering straight man,” while he lauds Lumley as “delightful…with a savvy grasp of the combustible metabolism of power.”

Rounding up the other reviews, New York Daily NewsJoe Dziemianowicz gives the show 3 1/2 stars and says, “As Elomire (an anagram of Molière), the straight-man role, Pierce, famous from Frasier and a Tony winner for Curtains, displays delicious seething disdain. Lumley adds perfectly imperious touches you’d expect from the actress known as Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous.But the show belongs to British star Rylance, who won a Tony for Boeing-Boeing.”

New York Magazine‘s Scott Brown slams playwright David Hirson‘s script as “not lucid enough to be middlebrow, even, but definitely muddled-brow,” but he touts director Matthew Warchus‘ ability to “spin straw into gold.” As for the actors, Hyde Pierce “deploys his full range of patrician disgust and j’accuse gazes with such brilliance, it’s impossible to argue with the casting director.” Brown calls Lumley “regal, frightening, very funny” and praises Rylance’s “drunken-masterly performance” which “fuses elements of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean and James Franco in Pineapple Express with more classic influences from Buster Keaton and Jack Lemmon – though honestly, all comparisons fall short.”

These great reviews suggest that Rylance, Hyde Pierce, and Lumley – making her Broadway debut – could be remembered next year at Tony time. How could the denizens of New York theater resist Patsy Stone, after all?

Here’s the promo for the show:

How interested are you in seeing La Bête? And if you’ve seen it already, what did you think?

by Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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