Photo by Don Kellogg

Saturday, September 25, 2010

La Bête

This is a tough one.  Intelligent and erudite - certainly.  Bombastic and overblown - possibly.  Funny and witty, I think so.   Roll these descriptors together and you might just find La Bête.  American playwright, David Hirson penned an entire play in iambic pentameter - Above my head at times, biting and below the belt at others - you got it.

Make sure you don't go in thinking this is a simple or light play.  I think (but don't really know) that this show may have had two acts originally.  I thought there was a decisive split between two halves of the play - although probably compressed into a nearly bearable 1 hour and 45 minutes for this Broadway run.   Three stars, David Hyde Pierce, Mark Rylance, and Joanna Lumley helm this production and turn in quite substantial performances.  The first half of the play is somewhat long and verbose (verbose may even be an understatement).  The second half, when the princess (Lumley) makes her entrance is a bit less of a verbal assault and more of a story.  It actually contains a play within a play - which at its core is where the themes of artistic purpose, the dumbing down of art for the masses, and artistic purity are explored.  From the start it pits highbrow Elomire (Pierce) against lowbrow Valere (Rylance) and the sparks (read words) fly throughout.

If words are not your thing - you may not enjoy this play so much.  The stars certainly delight, and if you calculate your price of admission by words spoken - you certainly will have gotten your money's worth.