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Two Views of Mark Rylance in "Farinelli and the King"
by Edward Rubin
by Lucy Komisar
Mark Rylance Returns to Broadway with "Farinelli And The King"
"Farinelli and the King"
Even before Farinelli and the King, starring
Mark Rylance, opened on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre, I was chomping
at the bit in anticipation of seeing the ever brilliant Rylance unleash
his incandescent magic once again. Rylance, winner of three well-deserved
Tony's, Boeing-Boeing (2008), Jerusalem (2011), and Twelfth Night
(2014), an Oscar for best supporting actor in Steven Spielberg's Bridge
of Spies (2015), not to mention a number of Olivier awards, was enough
to have me drooling.
Perhaps the fault could be partially blamed on Rylance real-life queen, his wife Claire van Kampen, who was responsible for the historically-based, but all too sparsely written play.
Rylance, in real life the son of a gestalt therapist, did pull out every idiosyncratic acting trick in his by-now familiar repertoire from his quirky timing, verbal and physical hesitations and slyly audience-delivered asides. Unfortunately the play, which gave the audience little to take home other than seeing The Great Man do his stuff (which admittedly for most was enough) did him no favors.
Sadly, what could have been an extremely successful husband and wife paring fell disappointingly short.
The story, as thinly fashioned by Kampen,
something of a ménage de trios, centers around the King who
is given to sudden fits of manic depression and bouts of severe melancholia,
his doting Queen, Isabella Farnese (nicely underplayed by Melanie
Grove), and Carlo Broschi (1705-1782), better known as Farinelli,
the Italian Castrato (castrated at the age of ten) who became a sensation
in opera houses and concert halls of 18th century Europe. At
the height of his fame, Farinelli gave up his celebrated career so
to sing privately and exclusively for the king.
To establish the king's bizarre behavior, the play opens with Rylance rod in hand fishing from a goldfish bowl as he exclaims to the fish "How much happier you are than I."
As the story unfolds, we see the only
thing that appears to sooth Phillipe, to give him the presence of
mind he so craves – be it at his royal residence or at a forest
retreat where the king, his wife and Farinelli go to escape the court
and to contemplate the heavens is the ethereal voice of Farinelli.
Accompanied by a trio of musicians, Farinelli would sing eight or
nine arias every evening for the pleasure of the king.
As far as I know, this confession of
love might have been a fictitious moment dreamed up by the author.
However, it did open up a whole new can of spicy worms and triggered,
certainly in myself, some much needed heart fluttering that the play
failed to do before or after. Unfortunately this heated moment came
too late in the play to add up to anything other than a throwaway
teaser. In a certain sense, the same could be said about the play
and the King"
gorgeous fantasy by Claire van Kampen, directed by John Dove, is based
on a real story, with the narrative setting art and sensitivity against
the plotting of ambitious court politicians of the time. The candles
on overhanging chandeliers suggest the whimsy that is a mirror of
The black and gold wood wall design features a large painting of a rider on a horse. Maybe symbolic. The men of the court plot to remove him. They want him to abdicate. (Is that the 18th-century deep state?)
reality trumps fantasy. Farinelli (Sam Crane as the actor and Iestyn
Davies doubling as the countertenor in gold brocade coats circa 1738)
arrive to sing to him. Farinelli is a castrato, and his ethereal voice
enchants the king.
Visit Lucy’s website http://thekomisarscoop.com/
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