Richard III and Twelfth Night on Broadway: A Review

The supporting performances are as good as you’re likely to see in any Shakespearean production. Stephen Fry makes his Broadway debut as Malvolio and to his (and Carroll’s) credit plays it straight. It works beautifully and don’t be too surprised if you find yourself sorry for him at play’s end.

In fact, one of the hallmarks of these productions is that neither director nor actors (Rylance, perhaps, excepted) feel the need to underline or exaggerate in the mistaken belief that, otherwise, no one will understand what’s going on or get the jokes. If you’ve seen too many overblown Sir Tobys and Sir Andrews, the understatement and realism of Angus Wright (Sir Andrew Aguecheek) and Colin Hurley (Toby Belch) will come as a revelation. Rather than diminish the humor, they heighten it.

Paul Chahidi is equally good as Maria, Sir Toby’s eventual bride, and he scores twice in Richard as Hastings and Tyrell. Indeed, everyone in the cast gives good account of himself.

Mention should also be made of the seven-person musical ensemble (they allowed a few women to sneak in here). The music is of the period as are all the instruments and it’s invariably delightful.

And then there’s the dancing. Apparently, every play in Shakespeare’s day ended with the entire cast performing a gavotte, or some similar Elizabethan dance. It’s become something of a hallmark for original practices productions at The Globe and it is altogether marvelous. It makes you realize what a shabby substitute our present day curtain calls are.

If you plan to see both shows, see Twelfth Night second; you’ll end the experience on a high note. If you can see just one, Twelfth Night is the obvious choice. Regardless of what the box office might tell you, seats on the side of the orchestra, from about the middle of the house down, are obstructed view due to the onstage seating.

Richard III closes on February 1, 2014, Twelfth Night closes on February 2.

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