Among those in the running to be named “greatest stage actor” is Mark Rylance (center), an actor that I noticed for the first time this weekend. Some know him for his role in Patrice Chéreau’s 2001 film, “Intimacy”, but Rylance is acclaimed for stage work. At a party last night, few of those that I polled informally had heard of the actor and former artistic director of the Globe theater.
So, I was introduced to the Brit in the third preview of “La Bête” yesterday afternoon. Wow.
Rylance bursts onto the stage through a side door and right into an incredible 30 minute comedic monologue. Thirty minutes that start with him spitting out food as he rapidly speaks, ending when he curls up into a wooden box at the center of the stage. It’s truly something awesome to experience (and is delivered in rhyming couplets).
Set it 17th-century France, “La Bête” features Rylance as a self-absorbed street performer at odds with an uptight theater director (David Hyde Pierce) who are each essentially trying to gain the affection of an intrigued Princess (Joanna Lumley!!). Not surprisingly, it loses a bit of momentum when Rylance is silenced or off stage. But, for the power of Rylance’s hilarious endurance of a performance, its a real must-see.
The trailer below doesn’t really do the show, or the performance, justice: