Paul Chahidi as Maria in the all-male production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” now in previews at Broadway’s Belasco Theatre.
It takes a certain actor to hold a scene with Mark Rylance — let alone pilfer one from the stage great who’s won a Tony for “Boeing-Boeing” and “Jerusalem.”
Meet Paul Chahidi, a fellow British actor, who arrives with a reputation for scene-stealing. He makes his Broadway debut in two all-male productions from London — “Twelfth Night,” playing Maria, and “Richard III,” doubling up as Hastings and Tyrell.
“When I was first offered the role of Maria, I rang up several of my actress friends,” says Chahidi. “I got two responses. One was pitying — ‘Oh, Maria, it’s not Olivia, the lead.’ The other was not pitying — ‘Maria, you bitch! That’s my part.’ ”
Chahidi was nominated for an Olivier for his take on the wily Maria, trusted companion of Rylance’s mournful and love-struck Olivia.
Both plays, from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, are staged as they were in the Bard’s day. The stage is lit almost exclusively by candles, which means actors may be dodging wax drippings.
A veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Chahidi is up for the challenge — even if he’s wrapped in a rib-crushing corset and billowing gown worth, he says, $ 16,000. “I look very calm as I walk,” he says. “But I’m paddling like a duck underneath that skirt.”
The plays are now in previews for a Nov. 10 opening at the Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th St.