The performances are all pitched perfectly between light comedy and pensive melancholy, which is precisely where Twelfth Night lives. Rylance tempers his typical eccentricities for Olivia, who is vain and impetuous, but adorable and demure. Paul Chahidi’s scheming servant, Maria, maintains a kind of quiet dignity, gliding along the stage as if on a skateboard. And there’s something touchingly plaintive in Peter Hamilton Dyer’s deadpan clown, Feste, who speaks truth to power, but seems just as bemused by more common foibles and frailties of those around him. This fool knows he’s one wrong joke away from prison. All in all, it’s a marvelous cast, and no one tries to “act” Elizabethan; they just serve the words and the words serve them.
TWELFTH NIGHT Broadway Reviews
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As Olivia, he glides across the stage like a hovercraft, first veiled in mourning weeds then transformed by her affection for Cesario, who is in fact the disguised Viola (and thus, in this case, a man playing a woman playing a man).
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.
As Olivia, the countess who falls for a woman she believes is a man — Viola, disguised as the servant Cesario — Rylance, his face slathered in white, moves with such exaggerated delicacy that he sometimes appears to be gliding on wheels, his teensy-weensy footsteps all but invisible.
Tuning up for his wise fool antics as Feste in “Twelfth Night,” the agile Peter Hamilton Dyer demonstrates a tricky piece of fingering on the recorder for goggle-eyed patrons. Suiting up for his sober role as the tragic Lord Hastings in “Richard III,” Paul Chahidi twinkles and waves at a groundling who has recognized him for the scheming Maria he plays in “Twelfth Night.”
Yesterday at 10:00 PM 3Comments Theater Review: Say What You Will About Twelfth Night and Richard III
This is typical of the way the Globe’s methods enhance the experience of Twelfth Night. But it would be an excellent production anyway. It is (like Richard) beautifully spoken and perfectly audible throughout the theater without a single microphone. With so little in the way of trickery to fall back on, the actors’ choices are especially clear and sometimes novel. Samuel Barnett (one of the History Boys on Broadway) is a touching Viola and a game Cesario; Liam Brennan makes Orsino’s melancholy unusually manly; Angus Wright’s Aguecheek is somehow dignified in his imbecility. And Stephen Fry, in his first Broadway appearance, makes a smart and original case for Malvolio. Usually a grotesque prig and egomaniac, he is here nothing much worse than a stuffy manager-type; it is only the vicious baiting of the court rowdies that exposes his repressed self-delight and gaudy inner fop.
They bring the plays alive, brilliantly and made immediate, even if "Twelfth Night" nudges ahead of its more homicidal cousin if the cost of seeing both is prohibitive, although the producers have admirably offered huge student discounts. Taken together, these are pure sweet and sour joy.
Conventional wisdom might dictate that Richard III, with its nonstop chicanery and carnage, would be a brooding affair after Twelfth Night. But Rylance and company gouge black comedy out of the history play without betraying its inherent nastiness.
The first-rate cast of both shows is all male, with guys made up in white-face to play the female roles. There are no visible microphones on the stage, which features a long wooden wall with two sets of doors for entrances and two-storey stalls on either side for a few dozen audience members — who sometimes get drawn into the action (to hold a flask for the tipsy Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, for instance). The lighting remains constant, with electric lights supplemented by a large upstage candelabra and six candle-laden chandeliers hanging overhead (lit by attendants just before the play begins). And the costumes, designed by Jenny Tiramani, are wonders — made entirely of materials (linens, silks, wools, leathers) available in 1600. No Velcro, no zippers. Those who arrive early are treated to a kind of Elizabethan pre-show, with actors being made up and dressed on stage.
"Twelfth Night" is the centerpiece that gives the most chances for nuanced sexuality and comic delight. In "Richard," Rylance chooses to play a villain who dissembles as a joking bumpkin, his guileless eyes betrayed by sinister eyebrows. Still, an almost cuddly Richard, despite his creepily effective dead and withered hand, lowers the stakes of the tragedy.
As a comedy, "Twelfth Night" more logically lends itself to interaction and horseplay, but here, too, Rylance finds a way to go the extra yard as Olivia, who goes in an instant from mourning her dead brother to swooning over the handsome Cesario, not realizing he's the disguised Viola.
Here's a woman grieving over her brother's death, a woman of surpassing refinement who's found nothing to comfort her until an emissary from a suitor for her hand arrives and melts her frozen heart. Even then, she retains her equanimity, gliding about the stage as if transported on wheels. Her speech has lute-like qualities. In the role, Rylance is depression embodied. He's as different from Richard as could be envisioned.
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, or Scotsman Liam Brennan’s Duke Orsino, who is falling for his handsome new page boy, Cesario (Barnett, as Viola, in disguise).
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. (You may find yourself thinking of the young Elizabeth I.) Of course she’s loftier than thou; she’s hiding her uncertainty behind protocol, and an occasional stammer gives her away.
That play creates an enchanting atmosphere — and a very funny one. Rylance looks fantastic in his huge black dress and corpse-white makeup. Gliding around as if on a hidden moving platform, he milks all the humor and pathos out of his character’s sudden passion for Cesario — who’s really Viola, a young woman disguised as a boy.