There are those productions on Broadway that have you scratching your head wondering how they still keep packing the houses- especially after you’ve seen the show- and then there are those theater experiences that leave you astonished at what you have just witnessed, so incredible and tight are the performances and smart the writing. This was my response to LE BETE (The Beast), a wild comedy about the collision of high and low brow viewpoints on art and culture, as represented by a Moliere-like playwright and a crude, obnoxious street performer, all spoken in brilliant rhymed verse. As enjoyable as the writing was, I couldn’t help thinking that the play depended heavily on actors of high caliber to keep it from derailing in wordiness. This LE BETE received in abundance from David Hyde Pierce, Joanna Lumley and an incomparable Mark Rylance who delivered a bravura performance so astonishing in its conviction that it truly lived up to the cliché phrase, “Once in a lifetime experience”. Rylance’s first entry onto the stage became a tour de force half hour non-stop monologue rant of self absorbed, narcissistic, stupid bullshit, punctuated with farts, burps, food spitting, and defecation. As much as his character was trying the patience of the others on stage, in the hands of a lesser actor, his character would have been trying the audience’s as well after 10 minutes. The famous observation, “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” couldn’t have been truer. Yet, you just sat there transfixed at this blathering 17th Century fraud, a representation of all we have become way too accustomed to in our current celebrity culture that celebrates idiots who have a feral talent for grabbing attention and not much more. The play goes on like this nonstop and yet ends on a very dark note that seems to come out of left field though you should have seen its logical progression.
Anyway, a real theater experience that couldn’t bring in enough people, the show closed January 2nd. A real shame.
The seats in the theater couldn’t have been more closely packed. My sketch pad was in hand but the idea of moving my arms and drawing raised the chances of aggravating the other theater patrons, so I laid low. Terri mistakenly thought that there was an intermission at which point I figured I could jot down some visual notes. There was no intermission and it didn’t occur to me until too late to try and do something regardless of the other sardines packed around me. I made a couple of quick observations at the end but it was too late. I had to rely on reference found on Google of which there was enough to satisfy what I hoped to do. The caricatures felt fluid and caught the expressions I wanted to portray. My finished sketch felt good enough to take to finish if approved, so I scanned it at high resolution and saved it. My producer was very pleased and I felt inspired with my pencils and watercolors that were applied at times in real impasto manner. An unexpectedly pleasant surprise was how the bookshelves in the background turned out. Normally that kind of detail work feels tedious and drives me crazy. But this time I got into the shapes and the background pulled together nicely. My producer was very pleased with the finish. I’m hoping this is the beginning of another fruitful working relationship.