Mark Rylance Does Shakespeare Double-Duty on Broadway

11:15 AM PST 06/06/2013 by David Rooney
Simon Annand
Mark Rylance in "Twelfth Night"

Balancing high drama with high comedy, the Tony-winning actor will cross the Atlantic in the acclaimed Shakespeare's Globe productions of "Richard III" and "Twelfth Night," the latter also featuring Stephen Fry.

NEW YORK -- Classical theater buffs unable to get to London in recent years to catch Mark Rylance's critically lauded performances for Shakespeare's Globe will have the opportunity to experience those productions on Broadway, when Twelfth Night and Richard III play a limited repertory engagement in the fall.

Protean British stage and screen performer Rylance has twice won the Tony Award for lead actor in a play, for his 2008 Broadway debut in Boeing, Boeing, and in 2011 for Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem.

The former artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe, Rylance stars as Olivia in Twelfth Night and as the title character in Richard III, displaying a range that runs from high comedy through bloody malevolence and tragedy. Both productions feature all-male ensembles undertaking male and female roles, adhering to the theatrical tradition of Shakespeare's era.

Writing in The New York Times, Ben Brantley called Rylance's work in the Globe double-bill "one of the most astonishing Shakespearean performances I've ever seen." Directed by Tim Carroll, the productions broke box office records in London's West End earlier this year.

Joining Rylance in Twelfth Night is beloved British actor, author and television personality Stephen Fry, who will make his Broadway acting debut as the pompous steward Malvolio in Twelfth Night, with Samuel Barnett (The History Boys) as Viola, who spends much of the play in cross-dressing disguise as Cesario.

Barnett also appears as Queen Elizabeth in Richard III, with full casting for both plays to be announced in the coming weeks.

The productions feature music by Claire van Kampen, played live by seven musicians on traditional Elizabethan instruments in a gallery above the stage. The action is lit almost exclusively by the glow of a hundred candles, adding to the authentic atmosphere. The immersive theatrical experience is enhanced by allowing audiences, as they enter the theater, to witness the pre-show ritual of actors dressing and preparing their make-up on stage.

Set for a 16-week engagement, the Globe imports will begin previews at Broadway's Belasco Theatre on Oct. 15, with official opening set for Nov. 10. The producing team on the Broadway transfer is led by Sonia Friedman Productions, Scott Landis, Roger Berlind, Bob Bartner & Norman Tulchin, and Stephanie P. McClelland.

The Rylance double-bill is one of two repertory ventures set for Broadway in the fall. As previously announced, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart will appear in Harold Pinter's No Man's Land and Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot, beginning performances Oct. 26 at the Cort Theatre.

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