Review Roundup: TWELFTH NIGHT & RICHARD III Open on Broadway - All the Reviews!
Two-time Tony Award-winner Mark Rylance stars in TWELFTH NIGHT and RICHARD III, two startlingly different performances in repertory, as the suddenly love struck noblewoman Olivia in Twelfth Night and as the ruthless and conniving title monarch in Richard III. The critically heralded all-male Shakespeare's Globe productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III, which delighted audiences and broke all box office records in London's West End earlier this year, opens tonight, Sunday, November 10 at the Belasco Theatre.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantely, The New York Times: "In this imported production from Shakespeare's Globe of London, deception is a source of radiant illumination for the audience, while the bewilderment of the characters onstage floods us with pure, tickling joy. I can't remember being so ridiculously happy for the entirety of aShakespeare performance since - let me think - August 2002...This "Twelfth Night" - which opened on Sunday in repertory with a vibrant and shivery "Richard III" that allows Mr. Rylance to show he's as brilliant in trousers as he is in a dress - makes you think, "This is how Shakespeare was meant to be done"... Because they know what they're saying - and where what they're saying comes from - we do, too. And even if you're an inveterate bardolator, you may find lines that you never fully grasped before making sense...Mr. Rylance's Olivia, the best I've ever seen, is a vulnerable woman newly come into power after the deaths of the men in her family...His interpretation of the crookback king is as thoroughly thought out as it is daring."
Joe, Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: "Directed by Tim Carroll and designed by Jenny Tiramani, the plays come from Shakespeare's Globe in London. They were custom-built for the talents of British actor Mark Rylance, who won a Tony for the farce "Boeing-Boeing" and the contemporary epic drama "Jerusalem." He's famous for characterizations that are quirky and one-of-a-kind. And in both, he's on his game...But it takes more than one great actor to make Shakespeare really click. Rylance is surrounded by a sublime company, who move seamlessly between the plays. In "Twelfth Night" Samuel Barnett's endearing Viola; Paul Chahidi's foxy Maria; Stephen Fry's maligned Malvolio and Angus Wright's absurd Andrew Aguecheek are invaluable. In "Richard III," Joseph Timms and Liam Brennan stand out, respectively, as Lady Anne and the doomed Clarence."
David Finkle, Huffington Post: "[Rylance is] playing these two vastly different figures in William Shakespeare's works in yet another strong bid for a Tony. Not, mind you, that for him acting is a matter of accumulating awards. It's not. He's clearly out to take command of the theater realm, to make every word count...His imagination is so unbounded that anyone who relishes superlative acting can't take his or her eyes off him for fear of missing what unexpected subtle or broad gesture or inflection will occur next. Watching the surprisingly short and off-the-stage unassuming Rylance is a matter of studying someone who regards acting simultaneously as profoundly serious and unrestrainedly amusing."
Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: "The shows are presented in repertory by London's Shakespeare's Globe. They kick it old-school: with an all-male cast in period 17th-century costumes - which they put on in full view of the audience in an entertaining pre-show ritual. The result, directed by Tim Carroll, is a feast for the senses...Samuel Barnett ("The History Boys") is a winsome Viola, as eloquent as she is romantic. And the comic second bananas take advantage of every single opportunity to score laughs, especially Paul Chahidi as a deceptively prim Maria, the scheming lady in waiting..."Twelfth Night" is the better show, but seeing both productions lets you watch the actors slip into completely different roles. You're not just going to the theater - you're experiencing what makes it magic.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: The stagings, which mark the Broadway debut of Shakespeare's Globe, find Rylance - a former Globe artistic director - leading an all-male company helmed by Tim Carroll. Other practices of the playwright's day are observed; Jenny Tiramani's handsome, resourceful set is lit chiefly by candles, and her costumes hand-stitched based on 16th-century designs...What matters, of course, is the actors' authenticity once the plays begin; and they are, generally, as magnificent as you would expect. Twelfth Night is, under Carroll's robust guidance, a joy - sly and bawdy and finally touching, without ever losing its glorious naughtiness...Rylance's Richard, if undoubtedly compelling, is more challenging...Laughing nervously at himself, Rylance can make the murderous madman seem as wilted in spirit as he is physically."
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: "What sounds like a gimmick - a troupe of Shakespearean actors getting into costume and makeup in full view of the audience - turns out to be a stroke of genius when executed by the all-male company from Shakespeare's Globe in residence at Broadway's Belasco Theater. Toplined by Mark Rylance ("Jerusalem"), who plays the title monarch in "Richard III" and makes a lovely Olivia in "Twelfth Night," these amazing thespians faithfully observe the theatrical rituals and customs of Elizabethan times, including the tradition of playing broad comedy directly to the rowdy groundlings in the cheap seats. And how we do love it!"
Jesse Green, Vulture: "So gallop, don't trot, to the Globe's repertory production of Twelfth Night andRichard III, with a company largely imported from England and headed by Mark Rylance. Each play is valuable in itself, but there is a reason, aside from expected popularity, that Twelfth Night is generally being offered six times a week and Richard only twice. Richard, as presented here, is a compelling curiosity; Twelfth Night is sublime...of course, there's Rylance, whom we should not be surprised to find a superb comedian. His slightly manic but fresh way with verse makes its language feel new and exigent; he's always doing something with it, usually something funny and revealing. If Shakespeare writes, blandly enough, "Give me my veil: come, throw it o'er my face," Rylance finds in the line the desperation of a woman needing to conceal herself from a "very well-favoured" visitor. "THROW it o'er my face!" he shrieks. The grieving Olivia, of all characters, thus becomes, in Rylance's performance, the comic engine of the play."
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: "The superstar English actor finally reveals his Shakespeare skills to a Broadway audiences and it's worth the wait: His Olivia is as wonderfully mad with passion as his "rudely stamped" monarch in "Richard III" is simply mad, veering from farcical buffoonery to a glint of the savage...The 19-member cast also includes a regal Stephen Fry making his Broadway acting debut as Malvolio in "Twelfth Night." He plays his role to the pompous, supercilious hilt, but you also sort of feel bad that he is so mistreated. (The play also contains a triumphant scene in which he is watched reading a forged love letter.) Fry is not in "Richard III," which is a shame for us...With a "Romeo and Juliet" behind us and a "Macbeth" to go, this is a purple patch for The Bard. But seeing Rylance in his element on Broadway is rare and special. Get thee hence."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: "...the ambitious venture might seem a commercially risky one for mainstream Broadway. But it's hard to imagine six more exciting hours of vital, emotionally and intellectually engaging theater, even for those of us who have at times felt bom-Barded by Shakespeare overload...Director Tim Carroll grasps the often overlooked factor that Shakespeare's plays were conceived to appeal to the widest possible cross-section, from high-born nobility to lowly commoners in the cheap seats. That means these productions move fluidly as required from broad comedy to cerebral wit, from melodrama to pantomime, from romance to horror, without the dumbing-down that often accompanies strained modern attempts to deliver Shakespeare to the masses...See one, see both, just don't miss this rare chance to experience original-practices Shakespeare done so right."
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: "...those craving Shakespeare with more than a mere hint of authenticity are in luck. The great British actor Mark Rylance, who led Shakespeare's Globe in London for a decade, heads up fascinating, unforgettable revivals of Twelfth Night and Richard III (in repertory at Broadway's Belasco Theatre) that are as close to Elizabethan-era performances as one can hope to find in the 21st century...he cast isn't shy about adopting a somewhat less restrained performance style than we're accustomed to seeing - complete with fart jokes, oinking noises, and various jabs at the fourth wall. At times, Rylance can seem like a Borscht Belt comic feeding off audience reactions and milking punchlines for every possible chuckle. This is an approach that works better in Twelfth Night, where the two-time Tony winner plays the noblewoman Olivia...[Rylance's] Richard, while consistently entertaining, throws the play's more tragic elements somewhat off-balance, particularly in the many (more serious) scenes when he's off stage."
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: "Performed in repertory, the plays offer Rylance in wildly different performances, first as a mincing, lovestruck Countess Olivia in "Twelfth Night," then as the murderous titular madman of the history play. Though Rylance helmed the Globe company for a decade, it's the first time he's bringing the Bard to Broadway...For a comedy that's about characters carried away by sexual desire, there's surprisingly little warmth in this "Twelfth Night," from either Rylance's otherwise-winning Olivia, who seems to glide across the stage as if on rollers...This production highlights Richard's isolation, with the audience his only confidante. As Rylance chews through the scenery, it becomes, regrettably, quite easy to love the old charmer -- even as you are appalled by the inhumanity, you have to respect the chutzpah."
David Cote, Time Out NY: The phenomenal Mark Rylance (Jerusalem) plays Olivia in an all-male rendition of Shakespeare's frothy comedy, in which all sorts of people are tripped up by inappropriate clothing. Stephen Fry costars as the starchy valet, Malvolio. This transfer from London's Globe Theatre and the West End plays in repertory with another all-boys take on the Bard: the history play Richard III. Rylance takes on the titular crookbacked villain.
Linda Winer, Newsday: The ostensible justification for these exhilarating productions is, of course, Mark Rylance. The preposterously gifted acting chameleon and showman ran Shakespeare's rebuilt Globe in London for the first decade after its 1996 inception and, not incidentally, has won Tonys for just about every word he has ever uttered on Broadway. But Rylance, who makes an irresistibly self-possessed yet vulnerable Olivia in "Twelfth Night" and a daringly clownish evil Richard, is just a part -- if an inextricable part -- of this special occasion. The plays begin onstage 15 minutes before curtain, when the excellent actors let us watch their transformation into 16th century men and women. (Women were banned from the wicked stage in Shakespeare's time.)
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: I don't know how closely these productions replicate the experience of Shakespeare's audiences, but they couldn't be more immediate or delightful for present-day theatergoers.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: That also leaves us to savor impeccable performances under Tim Carroll's direction. Rylance is free to play a garrulous Richard, "cheated of feature by dissembling nature," as a not-quite hunchback, with a flopping, useless left hand. His Richard crows with glee at every lethal lie, venomous kiss, broken promise. Rylance has mastered each of Richard's 1,171 lines and adds guffaws, asides, stutters and winces.