Mark Rylance, 'La Bete' and 'Jerusalem,' Broadway

Photo Source: Simon Annand
Mark Rylance is a player. As an actor, that is. "He has this playfulness that I've never ever seen," says reader James Fauvell. "You're watching, and you have no idea what he's going to do next." Rylance, who won a 2008 Tony Award for his Broadway debut in "Boeing-Boeing," took the stage in two tour de force roles this past season. Both performances received more votes from our readers than any other, so we're awarding Rylance a double honor.

First, in the revival of David Hirson's "La BĂȘte," Rylance became the titular "beast," Valere, a pretentious street clown. The actor captivated audiences with a 30-plus-minute monologue in which Valere expounds on his own brilliance while spewing melon, burping, and making a shambles of his host's home. "It was the funniest thing I've ever seen," remarks reader Spencer Irwin. "Seeing 'La BĂȘte' was the first time I'd ever felt something close to a religious experience."

In Jez Butterworth's "Jerusalem," for which Rylance won a second Tony, he becomes the uncouth rebel Johnny "Rooster" Byron, who is just as crude and egotistical as Valere but a totally different character, one whose objectives are sensual rather than artistic. "Just how markedly different they were blew my mind a little bit," says Irwin. Though the play brims with British themes and phrases, U.K.-born actor Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney thinks Rylance's performance is universal. "I was just a complete wreck by the end of it," the Back Stage reader recalls. "It's been a really long time since I've been moved like that by theater. It's something to aspire to as an actor."




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