There's also a meta drama at work here. La Bete was on Broadway once before, in a now infamous 1991 production that Frank Rich quickly put out of its misery. That older production, Rich wrote, "deteriorate[d] into an almost insufferably smug example of the exact middlebrow fluff it wants to attack."
I dare predict Rich will have a very different reaction to this revival. Director Matthew Warchus nimbly weaves together Mark Rylance's sublime buffoonery, Joanna Lumley's wounded ferocity, and David Hyde Pierce's tragic (and comic) indignance into a fabric so complex that the audience laughs hard as it wrestles with big and terrible questions about artistic integrity, personal sacrifice, and the marketplace of ideas. I suppose the main reason I am so full of superlatives here is that the play spoke to me personally. It resonated with my own inner dialogue as a writer wanting to make a unique contribution but also wanting to please, needing to say what I have to say but also needing to earn a living. La Bete is a beautiful piece of art about the existential traps built into making beautiful art.
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