In today’s Wall Street Journal I review Bedlam Theatre Company’s off-off-Broadway productions (there are two) of Twelfth Night and the new Broadway revival of David Hare’s Skylight. Here’s an excerpt.
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Bedlam Theatre Company, which specializes in small-scale, no-budget classical revivals that are both radically innovative and winningly playful, has scored yet another success with its double-barreled “Twelfth Night.” Catchily billed as “One Play, Two Ways,” Bedlam’s production of “Twelfth Night; or, What You Will” (to give Shakespeare’s ever-popular comedy its unabridged title) consists of two different versions of the same play, both of them staged by the same director, Eric Tucker, and performed by the same five-person cast, whose members share between them all 12 parts.
If this sounds like a gimmick, fear not: Mr. Tucker, who doubles as director and cast member, has come up with a pair of shows whose differences underline the protean essence of Shakespeare’s genius. Version #1, “Twelfth Night,” performed in street clothes, is a drunken debauch that strips away much of the laughter—Edmund Lewis plays the preposterous Malvolio totally, terrifyingly straight—while Version #2, “What You Will,” is a bright-young-things revel in which the costumes of the white-clad actors are spattered from time to time with what we come to understand is their own hearts’ blood.
Both versions are performed in a grubby 46-seat black-box garment-district theater whose stage (if you want to call it that) is no bigger than the living room of a dirt-cheap New York apartment. That puts you face to face with Andrus Nichols, Susannah Millonzi, Tom O’Keefe and Messrs. Lewis and Tucker, who leap from role to role with exhilarating abandon….
David Hare’s “Skylight” is back on Broadway for the first time since 1996 in a big-money production that has transferred to New York from London’s West End. Neither Bill Nighy nor Carey Mulligan are name-above-the-title stars in this country, but they’re much admired over here, and Stephen Daldry, the director, is currently represented on Broadway by “The Audience” and well known for “Billy Elliot.” Mr. Hare’s slashing study of an extramarital affair gone sour is, like all of his plays, unabashedly political: Tom (Mr. Nighy) is a Thatcherite businessman who hungers for Kyra (Ms. Mulligan), a much younger upper-middle-class do-gooder who hates herself (maybe) and him (sort of). As usual with Mr. Hare, you’ll never wonder which side the author is on, but “Skylight,” also as usual, steers clear of applause-sign good-guy-bad-guy clichés, especially in its complex portrayal of Kyra, who is strangling herself with the garrote of liberal guilt. (Nobody understands liberal guilt quite like a hard lefty.)
Fine though “Skylight” is, this high-profile revival is disappointing. Ms. Mulligan is strong and centered as Kyra, but so, too, was Greta Wohlrabe, who gave a powerfully passionate performance in the 2012 revival that I saw at Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre, which was superior to Mr. Daldry’s staging in every other way. Mr. Nighy’s performance is very interesting and all wrong—twitchy, mannered and self-consciously comic, not solid and self-satisfied…
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To read my review of Twelfth Night, go here.
To read my review of Skylight, go here.