Mark Rylance and his dog Apache
John Lamparski/WireImage

Canine actors and men playing women feted the bow of a Shakespeare double-bill

When your Broadway show is actually two plays, which one do you do for the official opening performance? You do ’em both, which is what they did for the Mark Rylance-led stagings of Shakespeare’s “Richard III” and “Twelfth Night” when they opened Nov. 10.

The hardiest opening nighters, including Geoffrey Rush, did the full marathon, “Richard” in the afternoon and “Twelfth Night” in the evening, sticking it out for the full effect of nearly six hours of Shakespeare done entirely in the original practices of Elizabethan performance — including the tradition of an all-male cast playing all the roles, men and women.

Paul Chahidi plays men in “Richard,” but he turns heads as saucy wench Maria in “Twelfth Night.” “The costumes add so much,” he said at the afterparty at Gotham Hall. “The corset gives me my cleavage, of which I make full use. I’m so cheap!”

The last time he played a woman, he was 14 at an all-boys school in England. He played a character named Felicity in Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Inspector Hound.” “It was probably wrong in so many ways,” he admitted, adding with a shrug, “but it’s what Shakespeare would have wanted.”

Rylance, who plays the title role in “Richard,” portrays the lead female, Olivia, in “Twelfth Night.” But the scene-stealer that night was his dog, Apache, who showed up on stage in a special one-night-only appearance and hogged all the attention when he dragged his feet on his way offstage.

“It was his Broadway debut,” Rylance noted like a proud father. “He made an excellent entrance. But I have to teach him a few things about exits!”

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