Photo: Manuel Harlan
If ever a show was not everyone's cup of tea, it's La Bête. The show is an odd mixture: dialogue in rhymed couplets, broad humor, and philosophical discussion. Set in 17th-century France, La Bête pits two playwrights in a fight between commerce and art: one is a slovenly, gross upstart (Mark Rylance), while the other is refined, elegant, and ossified (David Hyde Pierce). Their competition is instigated and refereed by a moody princess who must always get her way (Joanna Lumley). The show doesn't add up to much, but it's a fun ride, particularly when Mark Rylance is at the controls. His performance is indeed the tour de force that the advance press promised, and much of the joy of La Bête comes from watching him strut his stuff. David Hyde Pierce and Joanna Lumley are also excellent in far less interesting roles, and Lumley's entrance may be the best I've ever seen. The lighting, scenery, and costumes all do their part, and the supporting cast is quite good (although I couldn't understand a single word said by the guy with the guitar).