A busy three day weekend in New York City, which included a dinner Little Italy, and a 50 block jaunt through Central Park, was highlighted with tickets to La Bête with David Hyde Pierce of Frasier fame. This engaging comedy pits Valere’s street savvy wits against Elomire’s devotion to artistic purism. In other words, it’s main street pop versus a refined artistic flop. That may not sound very funny, but Valere played by Mark Rylance was masterful in his rendition of a street performer who is quickly elevated to royal court performer by an admiring princess. Valere, a bumbling, verbose, rambling and unrefined clown manages to charm the royal princess with his bizarre one man street performances she finds both interesting and amusing. Valere’s sudden elevation from street player to palace performer, comes much to the chagrin of Elomire (David Hyde Pierce), who’s royal palace theater troupe had been accustomed to theatrically pure high brow productions, which were typically steeped in symbolism and dark and dreary in tenor Cmd368 sports.
La Bête features a superb cast, complimenting the two leads above with Joanna Lumley as the royal princess. Joanna is very convincing as she shows both sides of her character, a hard edged and indulged princess used to getting her own way, and an enlightened princess who understands both sides of the issue, art in its’ purist sense, and popular art, fun and interesting for the masses to enjoy. Many other cast members including Stephen Ouimette (Bejart) and Greta Lee (Dorine) rounded out some great performances.
La Bête is a play for those who enjoy engaging dialogue, fast paced and humorous, and did I mention that the entire play is done in verse? Set in 17th century France, this play isn’t esoteric or difficult to understand, it’s a rapid fire comedy ranging from rapier wit to bathroom humor. Notable is a 20 minute soliloquy by Valere, funny and captivating, outrageous and exhausting. The audience roared at the end of this comedic diatribe.
La Bête has somewhat of a twist in the ending, and I’ll end this review at this point, leaving the surprise to those who decide to see this production. Though not perfect, it’s still a Broadway gem. If you’re heading to New York for the holidays, a visit to La Bête at the Music Box Theater is a worthwhile stop on your holiday agenda.