La Bête Music Box Theatre  Synopsis: A fast-paced contemporary comedy in the classic style of Moliere, satirizing the modern stage and the state of the arts. Show Advisory: None Genre: Comedy Cast List: David Hyde Pierce Mark Rylance Joanna Lumley Stephen Ouimette Lisa Joyce Greta Lee Robert Lonsdale Michael Milligan Liza Sadovy Sally Wingert Deanne Lorette Steve Routman  Production Credits: Matthew Warchus (Direction)  Mark Thompson (Set and Costume Design)  Hugh Vanstone (Lighting Design)  Simon Baker (Sound Design)  Claire van Kampen (Music)   Other Credits: Written by: David Hirson

La Bête with David Hyde Pierce and Mark Rylance

In a season filled with big holiday musicals and star-studded fare, some of Broadway’s most interesting plays end up on the back burner. Before year’s end, see a quality play sure to leave a mark on your social consciousness like The Pitmen Painters.

The absorbing drama, playing through Dec. 12, is based on the triumphant true story of a group of British miners who discover a new way to express themselves and unexpectedly become art-world sensations.

After the Painters’ inspiring story, head over to La Bête, which comes to a close on Jan. 9. La Bête focuses on a high-minded classical dramatist who loves only the theater, and a low-brow street clown who loves only himself.
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When a fickle princess decides she’s grown weary of the royal theater troupe, a battle ensues between the two men. David Hyde Pierce and Mark Rylance make La Bête a must-see.

The Pitmen Painters combines comedy with heart-tugging emotion, while turning its audiences into appreciators of art.

Writer Lee Hall, who also wrote Tony Award winner Billy Elliott, has made the story of these particular miners accessible and intriguing.

Christopher Connel stars as Oliver Kilbourn in an impeccable performance showcasing range and honesty.

David Whitaker’s Jimmy Floyd is another adorable standout, bringing much of the humor and light moments to the piece.

Pitmen Painters, The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

One might at first be deterred from seeing a play taking place in the 1930s, with minimal set changes and much art-world verbiage.

Through Max Roberts’ excellent direction the show never feels confined, and every one of the characters is affable because of their finely tuned quirks and individuality.

Art comes second to the message of exploring your dreams and being creative, regardless of your class or background.

A piece of art in itself, La Bête is a theatrical experience unlike any other.

It is performed entirely in Moliere-style rhyming verse. Mark Rylance’s Valere, a Jack Sparrow-like, self-absorbed character, is a force to be reckoned with from his first moments in the spotlight.

He makes an entrance spitting melon seeds across the stage amidst a monologue that goes on for more than thirty minutes.

Never boring, Valere’s lunacy is hysterical, and Rylance is sure to see his name across ballots in the spring.

David Hyde Pierce has an equally difficult role as Elomire, a character who is onstage silently seething over Valere’s unaware insanity.

When Pierce does finally get to speak, he slings such barbs as: “Your brain is like some prehistoric fossil. It must have died tens of thousands of years ago.”

Elomire’s contempt and Valere’s ignorance make for a brilliant combination.

La Bête does suffer from some misfires.

Cheap laughs do ensue in the second half of the short play, when Elomire’s servant makes her debut and chooses to only say the word “blue.”

It seems as though writer David Hirson got lazy with the development of secondary characters, especially with the disappointing princess, played by Joanna Lumley (in her Broadway debut).

If you can overlook the indolence that contributed to the written portion of the ending, you’ll enjoy La Bête for its never-ending attempts at humor- most of which hit their mark.

The Pitmen Painters and La Bête are very different from one another, but are both fantastically rewarding alternatives to the glittery musicals that tend to empty wallets at this time of year.

Catch these plays before they close- Wicked will still be around in the spring!

To purchase tickets for The Pitmen Painters and/or La Bête visit www.telecharge.com.