Sunday, November 24, 2013

Broadway Theater Review: Richard III and Twelfth Night

Richard III and Twelfth Night
By Lauren Yarger
The Globe is presenting Richard III and Twelfth Night in repertory at the Belasco Theatre in what is becoming one of the most Shakespeare-filled seasons on Broadway in recent history (Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth are on the Great White Way at the moment too).
Mark Rylance stars in both as Richard and as Olivia. Here are thoughts on the presentations, which are presented with all-male casts as they were in Shakespeare's time (in fact, I wasn't even able to detect any microphones in use). 

The audience is invited to come about 30 minutes prior to curtain to witness the ritual of the actors getting into costume and to see the lighting of the chandeliers using 100 beeswax candles. Some audience members are seated on stage in two levels of box seats and occasionally the actors interact with them.

Both productions feature period-instrument-playing musicians on stage (they are up on top of the oak-paneled backdrop wall) with music by Claire van Kampen. And as is the Globe's tradition, each performance ends with a delightful Elizabethan dance curtain call.

Any time you can see Rylance on stage, go. He's brilliant. I took very few notes during Richard III, partly because I know the story and partly because Rylance was so fascinating, I just sat back and watched. His take on Richard is different (not really surprised). This king seems half inebriated and half mad with the thought of power and securing England's throne for himself regardless of whom he might have to kill to do it. His bursts of joyful laughs are at once humorous and frightening.

Standing out is Richard is Joseph Timms as Lady Anne, whom Richards woos despite the fact that he has killed her husband and her father-in-law and in spite of his physical deformities, depicted here as a limp and a malformed left hand. Also riveting is Samuel Barnett as Queen Elizabeth, whose ill-fated sons are the boys in the tower.
In Twelfth Night, Rylance plays Olivia, the unrequited love interest of Count Orsino (Liam Brennan). She falls in love with Viola (Barnett), who, washed up on shore after a shipwreck, assumes the disguise of a man in Orsino's service. Rylance's Olivia is very frail and frazzled. Her quick little steps under the voluminous Elizabethan gown brings guffaws. (The costumes, meticulously researched and created by Jenny Tirimani, are engrossing to observe themselves).

This Twelfth Night, my personal favorite of Shakespeare's comedies, is really very funny. Lots of laughs throughout and one of the best jobs of making Viola and her twin brother, Sebastian (Timms), look alike in any production that I have seen. Stephen Fry plays a satisfying Malvolio, Colin Hurley is notable as a humorous Sir Toby Belch and Paul Chahidi is a surprisingly nasty Maria.

While I recommend seeing both productions just for the opportunity to see Rylance and to experience Shakespeare in its original form, neither production is my favorite for these particular works. Directed by Tim Carroll, the pace of Twelfth Night is too slow (a number of nearby audience members nodded off and one was snoring rather loudly). If you aren't already familiar with the plot, you will have trouble following it. Because the action takes place against the stationary backdrop setting, it is not clear at all that Viola has washed up on shore following a shipwreck -- or that Sebastian is her twin brother. The whole man-playing-a-woman-playing-a-man thing was confusing for many. 

Richard III plays more effectively against the interior set -- until the battle scene. Carroll has Richard being visited by some ghosts that look like kids trick-or-treating with sheets over their heads, then seemingly attacked in his castle, where he appears to be running through arched doorways pledging his kingdom for a horse.... It just doesn't work. In addition, sounds from outside the theater, like groups of people laughing or talking and police and fire sirens, can be heard in the house and too often remind us that we are not really in 16th-century England.

Richard III and Twelfth Night play in rep at the Belasco, 111 West 44th St., NYC through Feb. 1.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Two men kiss, but in the context of one being a female character.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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