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Spring Awakening

October 9, 2015

Aside from its notable staging, this production is also receiving a great deal off attention for facilitating the Broadway debut of Marlee Matlin, the only deaf Academy Award-winner to date. While her role as several of the town’s adult women is not a particularly weighty one, she imbues them with her characteristic fervor. Sandra Mae Frank and Katie Boeck work well together to share the character Wendla; Boeck’s voice fluidly pairs with Frank’s signing to separate the inner turmoil and outer façade of a character whose mother refuses to listen. Likewise notable is the always-wonderful Broadway and television veteran Krysta Rodriguez, whose portrayal (both sung and signed) of Ilse, a homeless bohemian clinging to her sanity, is uniquely dark and dangerous. [more]

Reread Another

October 5, 2015

"Reread Another" is a collection of Stein’s sometimes illuminating, sometimes moving, and sometimes completely ridiculous linguistic portraits arranged into a series of discrete scenes. Spoken by three actors taking on various roles from sailors to shrubs, the text is an angular, twisting mix of paradoxes, circular logic, and contradictions that achieve satisfying moments of coherence when we least expect them to. Although the performance lacks any sort of cohesive story, it amounts to a shockingly moving evening, providing its viewer the unique sense that something indescribably interesting, perhaps even important, has occurred. [more]

Rough Draft

September 28, 2015

Performed at The Wild Project, a stylish downtown venue with a raked stage, the set (John Lavigne), lighting (Robert M. Stevenson) and sound design (Jorge I. Sanchez) all compliment the production and enhance the overall experience. Co-written by Wittrock, Donovan and Custer, and conceived and developed by the members of Improbable Stage, "Rough Draft" is a piece of theater which remains in its own category; a challenging, creative, and unique work presented by a group of talented artists with a message. [more]

Blue Surge

September 23, 2015

Directed by Joseph Hayward, "Blue Surge" is specific and engaging, and moves at a brisk pace which deceives the nearly-two-hour run time. The lighting design (Jason Fok) is particularly impressive for such a small and aged theater space, and much of the intrigue derives from the varying lighting techniques and bold color scheme employed. Given the limited budget and resources with which Brooklyn Repertory Theatre’s latest production was mounted, commendable acting, direction, and design serve as a reminder that the actual theater space becomes irrelevant when in the midst of a talented cast and crew. [more]

The Christians

September 22, 2015

"The Christians," Lucas Hnath’s examination of the intricacies of religion currently playing at Playwrights Horizons, comes to us at a unique cultural moment: every day, scientific advances further challenge the existence of God; ostensibly in an attempt to stay palatable to his mainstream constituents, The Pope has issued a series of proclamations regarding the acceptability of homosexuality, the truth of evolution, and other topics; "The Book of Mormon"—a patronizing, tongue-in-cheek assessment of the Church of the Latter Day Saints—is still playing to sold-out houses after five years on Broadway. Indeed, the fact that "The Christians"’ opening line, “Brothers and Sisters, let us pray,” was met with a hearty laugh is telling: today, New York audiences are largely secular and conditioned to sharpen their daggers at the very mention of Christ. To Hnath, however, the subject of religion is no joke. [more]

The Black Book

September 17, 2015

"The Black Book" follows the faculty of United University while they attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding a difficult student named Collin Archer and a suicide on campus. Drama instructor Axel Cooper works together with his co-workers Arthur Chase, Julie Edwards and Riley Andrews to decipher the boy's disturbing set of clues. As the action rises, motives are questioned, allegiances are challenged, and the lines between reality and delusion are blurred. Time and space spiral out of control in a climax beyond (or maybe just shy of) the point of coherence. [more]

Stoopdreamer

September 14, 2015

"Stoopdreamer," a new play by Pat Fenton, is an intimate commentary on the gentrification process in Brooklyn, specifically applying to the small neighborhood of Windsor Terrace. Located between Prospect Park and Greenwood Cemetery, Windsor Terrace is a nine-block wide residential neighborhood which for years was home to many immigrant families, a majority of which were Irish. Though the gentrification of Brooklyn continues today, for Windsor Terrace this has been an event 70 years in the making: in 1946, Robert Moses announced a brand new road building program that consequently destroyed an enormous amount of residences in the community, and as a result over 1,200 Windsor Terrace residents were left homeless. [more]

Baba: the Show

August 26, 2015

Life comes with detours, but more important than any of that is the personal response. Instead of allowing the past to dictate the future, Mahgoub’s path is one filled with determination and perseverance. Hard work is ultimately more important than “luck,” [more]

The New York Pops with Pink Martini

August 13, 2015

The song that made Pink Martini famous, “Sympathique,” was performed early on and welcomed much applause. Performed by China Forbes, one of Martini’s resident vocalists, “Sympathique” is a genre bending song which received critical acclaim internationally. Though Forbes was one of featured performers of the evening, all the vocalists associated with Pink Martini were top notch. As a whole this was as well-polished an evening of standards that one could ask for. Other highlights include Storm Large’s charismatic performance of “Quizáas, Quizás, Quizás.” [more]

Off White

July 31, 2015

Bianca Soto, Mary Baynard, Natasa Warasch, Mark Kopas and Anthony Abdo in a scene from “Off [more]

Butcher Holler Here We Come

July 29, 2015

"Butcher Holler Here We Come" begins like any other theatrical: a quick pre-show announcement to silence all electronic devices, a note about the run-time of the production, and then a black out. The difference is that once those house lights go completely dark, they never turn back on until the final bow. With the exception of the small mining headlamps strapped to the foreheads of the five actors in the production, from beginning to end, this entire show is performed in darkness. In fact, it is nearly fifteen minutes in complete darkness before even one of the actors turns on a headlamp. [more]

Sally Darling: “Perspectives”

July 29, 2015

Sally lays out her heart and soul onto the stage and her chemistry with the talented composer and pianist, Matthew Martin Ward, is unmistakable. At the end of the show, she turned to him and said, “What would I do without you?” to which he replied, “Back at you.” He then leapt up from the piano and they embraced in a kiss which led them into their encore, “Here's to Us.” [more]

Foolerie

July 26, 2015

The premise of "Foolerie" centers on a clowning competition between the aptly named Clowne and a modern day Knave challenger. At the Earl’s behest, the two engage in a battle of fooling that bears extraordinarily high stakes: the winner is crowned Biggest Fool in the Land (purportedly an honor) and the loser is put to death. With the help of a supporting cast of Elizabethan actors, both competitors employ Shakespeare’s best-known characters to concoct a fictional story for the Earl’s amusement. [more]

Real Men: The Musical

July 21, 2015

Clearly a passion project, two of the three male actors of the cast are the previously named co-creators—Paul Louis and Nick Santa Maria. Both play their roles with comedic expertise, and as is evidenced by the quick-witted dialogue, these analogies and metaphors for male strife are derived from a very real place. Rounding out the cast is Stephen G. Anthony, who—thanks to a razor sharp sense of comedy—fits right in. [more]

The Calico Buffalo

July 13, 2015

Based on the book of the same name by EJ Stapleton, "The Calico Buffalo" gives a close look at a day in the life of a herd of wild buffalo. Not only are these walking and talking buffalo, but they are also animals which struggle with similar problems previously assumed exclusive to the human race—namely, this herd has a major problem with equality across all buffalo. When the Chief Buffalo’s first-born calf is one with a hide of bright orange and white--completely different than the dark brown and black of the rest of the herd, the Chief (Rhys Gilyeat) and his wife Willa-Mah (Rachel Rhodes-Devey) fear for the challenges their son might face living life as an outcast. [more]

Araberlin

July 12, 2015

Written almost ten years ago, ":Araberlin" is the story of the mysterious disappearance of Mokhtar (Gabriel Diaz DeSalas), a young man whom it would appear has left America to join an ISIS-like militant group. A bleak story with much in common with the present, the play glides between the past and present, flashing to scenes between Mokhtar with his family, or scenes solely featuring his loved ones following his disappearance. Focusing on the dysfunctional elements in Mokhtar’s life prior to the events of the play, Diaz DeSalas as Mokhtar is an angst-filled young man who hardly had a normal relationship in his life. [more]

At the Table

July 2, 2015

Loaded with a bevy of strong-minded characters, "At the Table" pits lifelong friends against each other in the wake of core differences or political beliefs. At any given point in the show, expect commentary on such issues as race, gender equality or identity, abortion, legal use of marijuana, classism, or remarks on a myriad of other topics which—almost as a prerequisite—spark debate. In fact, little actually happens in terms of a plot except for the falling out a few of the friends to make way for new characters in the second act. [more]

The Qualms

June 26, 2015

Norris is interested in examining issues so often argued in black and white terms by drawing out the—pun intended—shades of grey. However, while wryly entertaining and largely incisive, his new work suffers from some of the same missteps as does his aforementioned "Clybourne Park." Namely, he paints Chris—his ostensibly well-intentioned, under-informed, straight white male character—as so downright nasty that it is almost impossible to listen to any of his arguments, however logical some of them may be. While the action of the play operates under the guise of an engaging debate that includes various different perspectives, the scales are tipped and its presentation of arguments is uneven. [more]

Out of My Comfort Zone

June 24, 2015

As with all productions by the Children’s Acting Company & Academy, the cast is comprised entirely of children and teenagers—in this case between the ages of 12 and 16—and for all its innocence and simplicity, the charm in this production is its sheer authenticity. Children and teenagers are by nature unfiltered, and to have kids playing their own age on stage is the recipe for an afternoon of uninhibited fun. For the most part, this is an impressive outing for a group of young and aspiring artists, and many of the cast members have already worked professionally in TV, film, or on-stage. [more]

The Pavilion

June 21, 2015

Though "The Pavilion" is a play which addresses time as if it were a simultaneous occasion—past, present, and future all occurring at once—the story takes place in the present, at The Class of 1985’s 20 year reunion. Of particular interest, the story focuses on Peter (Dusty Brown) and Kari (Julie Voshell), high school sweethearts who had a storied romance which withered and deteriorated long before the events of the play. Funny at times and touching at others, Brown and Voshell have created a great on-stage relationship which is buoyed by excellent chemistry, and the different dynamics of the two actors gives way to some moments which are very sweet and others which are heartbreaking. [more]

Devil and the Deep

June 15, 2015

As if a talking parrot weren’t magical enough, the production and costumes are truly inspired. Conceptualized by Alisa Simonel-Keegan & Jim Keegan, the set design for this production is imaginative and destroys the perceived idea of value for a show presented in a black box theater. The lighting design (Jessica M. Kasprisin) is particularly beautiful, and is so unique in that it breathes a singular life into each separate exotic location. The finishing touch in the quest for an unmistakable mysticism and adventurous spirit can be traced to the costume design (Adrienne Carlile) which sees every single pirate, sailor, parrot or person uniquely dressed. [more]

Mallorca

June 10, 2015

A simple message is at the center of Sheldon Bull’s new play" Mallorca." As timeless as the theme may be, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is self-evident. Surrounding the dysfunctional friendship of four men, in some way every character in this play has left an important aspect of his life unattended. [more]

Devoted Dreams

June 5, 2015

Directed by Anna Bamberger, "Devoted Dreams" is a mind-boggling production. It would seem as if the objective was almost to minimize this production as much as possible, as a challenge to play against the mythical and high-concept subject matter. Despite the short-sighted production values, there are also structural problems in the script which were not concealed in the slightest by the casting decisions and certainly didn’t help the actors. Though it is true in some cases that less is more, in this particular situation the concept might as well be thrown out the window. [more]

Nice Girl

May 28, 2015

Set in Boston in 1984, "Nice Girl" is the story of Josephine “Jo” Rosen (Diane Davis), a 37-year-old secretary who lives with her mother. Davis’ Jo is the epitome of a “nice girl.” She keeps to herself, puts others first, and is afraid to say how she really feels in spite of clear emotional stress. Davis is an actress with immense emotional depth, and provides a varied and complex look at a protagonist whose self-inflicted pain, from an outsider’s perspective, is frustrating and also subtle enough that it feels totally conceivable. [more]

The Gondoliers

May 24, 2015

Founded by Albert Bergeret in 1974, he continues to this day as artistic director for the NYGASP, and on this occasion served as director and conductor, with an assist by choreographer David Auxier on the direction. A daunting and impressive achievement, this production also marked the conclusion of the first season in which the NYGASP performed in their new residence: NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. A beautiful and state of the art theater, this is a space that can handle the grandeur and scale of a G&S piece. The theater provides remarkable production value, including a massive pit to house the almost thirty person orchestra. Thanks to the latest in acoustic engineering and innovation, the music of "The Gondoliers" was robust and invigorating. Led by Bergeret, the score filled every inch of the theater and truly transported the audience to another time and place. [more]

Blood Red Roses: The Female Pirate Project

May 23, 2015

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this devised piece is the venue itself. Boarding the Lehigh Valley Barge off the docks of Red Hook, Brooklyn, is like taking a literal step off the land and a figurative step back in time. During normal business hours, the old barge is a museum dedicated to New York City’s rich maritime history. During the run of this production, however, the rickety, wooden fixture serves as the galley of a ghost ship. At the performance under review, thunder crackled in the distance and the makeshift stage bobbed in the Upper Bay’s stormy waters while the players carry on in costume designer Emily Blumenauer’s grungy, Victorian seafarer wear; if nothing else, "Blood Red Roses' is a chillingly atmospheric evening of theater. [more]

Search: Paul Clayton

May 17, 2015

Clayton and Dylan are played by Peter Oyloe and Jared Weiss, respectively, and the two have great onstage chemistry. Oyloe’s Clayton is a still, thoughtful, creative man; a man who felt misunderstood and spun out of control. Slowly, Oyloe turns the once motivated artist to a man with deep resentment, shame, and fear. This is in stark contrast to Weiss’ Dylan, a sinewy and charming portrayal of the famed singer. Oyloe and Weiss banter on stage like old friends, but the real connective tissue here is the music. Both actors are excellent musicians, who play classic folk and blues songs with skillful and soulful execution. [more]

A Queen for a Day

May 10, 2015

If the casting of four powerhouse actors hadn’t been the case—including Proval’s "The Soprano"’s co-star Vincent Pastore--this play would not falter. Michael Ricigliano, Jr.’s writing is consistent and engaging, and the dialogue between the characters is so fluid and effortless that it feels like two real people having a conversation. Full of powerful social commentary, this is a dark, exciting, and at times violent story with a little bit of something for everybody.   [more]

Clara

May 5, 2015

On the evening of this performance under review, the audience was treated to a rare surprise: Victoria Bond, writer of the music, was not only present but was also the conductor for the evening. Gramercy Trio, under Bond’s musical direction, skillfully maneuvered through the score. Filled with atonal and complex orchestrations, Bond’s music strikes a fine balance between some very vibrant and cheery melodies followed by quite a few haunting and more chaotic progressions which coincide with the show’s climax. [more]

Fun Home

May 3, 2015

Inside this less-than-"Fun Home" of deception and repression is an exceedingly endearing and relatable cast of characters. Sydney Lucas, Emily Skeggs, and Beth Malone star as Small, Middle, and Adult Alisons, respectively; while their individual mannerisms and inflections may not depict a consistent character, their passionate performances work well enough together to amount to a moving “portrait of the cartoonist as a young woman” (or what have you). Stage and screen veteran Judy Kuhn likewise shines—or, more appropriately, fades—as the Alisons’ defeated mother Helen. As her former Disney princess voice glides across a broken ballad, Kuhn shows the anguish of a wife with nothing left to sing about. Perhaps most notably, Michael Cerveris’ heartbreaking portrait of Bruce is both authoritative and impotent, loveable and despicable. [more]

The Unexpected Guest

April 23, 2015

Set in South Wales in the 1950’s, "The Unexpected Guest" (first produced in London in 1958) is a mystery surrounding the events that led up to the death of Richard Warwick, patriarch to the Warwick fortune. In the opening minutes of the play, his lifeless corpse is discovered by Michael Starkwedder (Nicholas Viselli), a seemingly random stranger who—upon driving his car into a ditch—stumbled up to the Warwick Estate in search of assistance. Upon discovering the body, Michael is confronted by Laura Warwick (Pamela Sabaugh), now widow to Richard. [more]

Hand to God

April 16, 2015

Though operating under the guise of a rather nonsensical comedy, Askins’ play is actually a sophisticated examination of how we handle grief. The text depicts two competing sides of a boy newly without a father and in the throes of puberty: while Jason appears too innocent to ever do anything wrong, the sock on his hand offers a convenient outlet for his bad behavior. Laced in this dichotomy are hints of schizophrenia, allusions to autoerotic stimulation, and a critique of the Christian notion that “unholy” behavior exists outside of the pure self and thus can be forgiven and eliminated. The question literally “at hand” is as follows: is the puppet actually possessed or is Jason mentally ill? If the latter, to what extent should the otherwise sweet boy be held responsible for the evil puppet’s actions? [more]

Clinton the Musical

April 15, 2015

After a brief stint in the future, the show jumps back in time to the 1992 evening of Bill Clinton’s election. As the First Lady, Broadway veteran Kerry Butler is bold with her characterization, using vocal variation and employing highly stylized physical choices to bring Hillary to life. Still grandiose at best, Butler brings just enough warmth and heart to the character to ground the few fleeting dramatic moments. Early on the music is quite simply that of a musical comedy, but the writers manage to incorporate signature moments to showcase Butler’s true vocal abilities, in none more so than “Both Ways,” a power ballad performed by Butler with familiar command and ease. [more]
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