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Articles by Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (685 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

The Black History Museum…According to the United States of America

November 11, 2019

Revolutionary War patriots Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Richard Henry Lee, John Hancock and Benjamin Franklin are eerily represented by male and female black performers wearing tweaked 18th century garb, half-white wigs and garish makeup. They’re on a raised platform sitting on period furniture and cynically thrashing out The Declaration of Independence with the aim of enforcing white male hegemony. This is the satirical wild opening of "The Black History Museum...According to the United States of America." It’s an immersive two-hour performance art piece performed all over the two floors of New York City’s HERE theater complex. [more]

A Life in the Rye

November 9, 2019

A seated actor dressed all in black wearing a beret beats a conga drum on a confined playing area.  Other actors in period costumes sit at small cabaret tables and chairs as thick wafts of smoke envelop the stage. On the back wall is a white screen and from behind it is the shadow of a woman dancing. Such is the arresting 1950’s classic beat coffee house imagery director Joe John Battista conjures up for playwright Claude Solnik’s fascinating fantasia derived from the life of J.D. Salinger (1919-2010), "A Life in the Rye." [more]

The Great Society

November 6, 2019

LBJ’s ambitious social programs in the United States of the 1960’s being sidetracked by the folly of the Vietnam War and his mishandling of the unrest caused by the Civil Rights Movement, have been the subject of books, documentaries and television docudramas. Playwright Schenkkan’s stage treatment of this material is a clumsy waxworks affair of a multitude of forgotten and remembered personages spouting off during two choppy acts.  [more]

An Enchanted April

November 4, 2019

The enduring resonance of its source material is evident in "An Enchanted April" during this uneven stage musical adaptation. Lasting two hours and 45 minutes with an intermission, its initial frothiness gradually fizzles. The bright score is excessive, the solid book rambles, and the production is more dutiful than inspired. However, the performances are engaging, and the piece’s emotional power is palpable. The show was originally presented by the Utah Lyric Opera and this New York City premiere demonstrates its potential. [more]

The Catastrophe Club

October 31, 2019

Mr. Burnam’s futuristic conceit is engrossing and the theme of a repressed figure looking back at a more joyous way of life is potent. The present day portions are amiable but only fitfully compelling, so The Catastrophe Club doesn’t quite fulfill its striking premise. Reaching a polished and wistful conclusion, and with its site-specific presentation, it sustains its 90 minute length with interest. [more]

Soft Power

October 29, 2019

Hillary Clinton wearing a glittery red pantsuit leading a Gene Kelly/Stanley Donen-style production number set in a Busby Berkeleyesque recreation of a McDonald’s with giant sparkling French fries is a highlight of the insipid and disjointed musical fantasia, "Soft Power." It’s just one of its many lame sequences including a "The Music Man"-type explanation of the U.S. electoral system led by a singing and dancing judge. We’re in for two hours of painfully unfunny self-indulgence. Holden Caulfield from "The Catcher in the Rye" pops up too. [more]

Fear

October 28, 2019

"The Cosby Show," "Home Improvement" and "Roseanne" are among Mr. Williams’ prominent credits as a television writer and producer. Williams also has had several plays produced and has directed a number of theater productions. Fear is in the venerable tradition of "The Petrified Forest" and "The Desperate Hours" with dashes of "The Bad Seed." It exhibits a technical facility for dramatic writing with its sharp dialogue delivered by its diverse well-drawn characters enmeshed in a suspenseful scenario out of French cinema. Lamentably, Williams doesn’t go all the way in rendering Fear’s classic whodunit aspects. It all plays out inconclusively and without satisfaction. [more]

Molly Sweeney

October 24, 2019

As is Mr. Friel’s The Faith Healer, Molly Sweeney is a monologue play. Here, instead of being separated in individual acts, the three characters appear on stage together without interacting, and speak alternately. It’s certainly a viable format and Mr. Friel gives us a gorgeous cascade of memories, biographical details, differing points of view and suspense. However, as beautiful as these reveries may be, there’s too much of them and the play’s impact is diluted. Lasting two and a half hours and comprised of two acts with an intermission, the slender plot is embellished with the leisure of a literary work rather than a taut stage play.  Still, by its end, one is caught up by the characters and their fates. The arguable structural deficiencies are compensated for by the faultless presentation. [more]

Dublin Carol

October 18, 2019

Bearded, bald and utilizing a pronounced Irish accent, the physically imposing Jeffrey Bean is towering as John. The beaming Mr. Bean’s delightful bonhomie gives way to harrowing anguish as he conveys John’s dark sensibility while consuming more and more whiskey, shambling about and later coping with the bender’s aftereffects. Bean’s everyman presence endows his performance with the dimension of being a stand in for all self-pitying delinquent fathers. [more]

Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation

October 17, 2019

This is the latest edition of creator, writer and director Gerard Alessandrini’s enduring musical spoof skewering present and past NYC theater that he inaugurated- in 1982 and has had over 20 incarnations. Mr. Alessandrini’s erudite, affectionate and acerbic script once again lambasts Broadway while lovingly celebrating its history during its 20 numbers. “Theater isn’t art, unless it hurts.” It’s that aching sense of the collectively treasured memorable greatness of Broadway clashing with its mercenary concerns that enables each version of the show to resonate while entertaining. Plus, it’s very funny and offers a showcase for talented malleable performers. [more]

Slave Play

October 14, 2019

A mulatto slave is sodomized with a large black dildo while in a canopy bed by his master’s wife who is decked out in Madonna-style dominatrix regalia. A white indentured servant fellates the boot of his black overseer after they’ve performed a balletic dance in their underwear. A snarling whip- wielding white overseer is abusive to a female black slave as she cleans his shack while twerking to Rihanna’s “Work.” Welcome to playwright Jeremy O. Harris’ overblown and overrated racial, social and sexual satire, "Slave Play." Striving for hilarity, it’s painfully unfunny.  The wan shock value is more in the spirit of Mel Brooks than Jean Genet. [more]

Heroes of the Fourth Turning

October 14, 2019

Numb from two straight-through hours of far-right speechifying emoted in perpetual semi-darkness, the audience at "Heroes of the Fourth Turning" then endures a ghastly aria of despair by a Lyme Disease-debilitated character. We also soon learn a deafening recurring sound that was thought to be innocuous, may have supernatural ramifications as the play ends on an unjustified cryptic note. The shooting and implied mutilation of a deer during the awkward prologue was an omen that this was going to be a lulu of a bad play. It’s symptomatic of the uneasy symbolism threaded throughout. [more]

Nothing Gold Can Stay

October 9, 2019

A downer by its nature, "Nothing Gold Can Stay" is playwright Chad Beckim’s heartbreaking 95-minute family drama depicting the ravages of rampant opioid addiction in the present day United States. It’s a bleak and accomplished take on the eternal subject of substance abuse. Mr. Beckim’s topical scenario is enforced by his skillful writing, the searing performances and the crisp production. [more]

Kingfishers Catch Fire

October 3, 2019

It’s 1948 and we’re in an Italian prison where “The Beast of Rome,” German SS Colonel Herbert Kappler (1907-1978) is serving a life sentence for war crimes. Kappler was the Chief of Police of occupied Rome and was responsible for the deportation of Jews to concentration camps as well as ordering massacres of civilians. He is visited by his nemesis Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty (1898-1963). “The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican” was the nickname of this Irish prelate who as a Italian resistance figure saved the lives of over 6000 Allied soldiers and Jews during W.W. II. In real life, O'Flaherty did visit Kappler out of a quest of instigating redemption in the Nazi, and a complex friendship evolved. [more]

Sunday

September 29, 2019

Though off-putting, "Sunday"’s periodic non sequitur choreographic interludes become a respite from its bad writing and grating performances. For no discernable reason, characters stop speaking and engage in herky-jerky movements accompanied by crashing music and frenetic lighting. “A sort of frenzied dance. Think "They Shoot Horses Don’t They?" But perhaps slightly less macabre,” is the stage direction's description.  The action then resumes. These tangents fill things out as the show is scant on plot. [more]

Katsura Sunshine’s Rakugo

September 29, 2019

Katsura Sunshine is the stage name of this charismatic 49-year-old Toronto-born performer who relocated to Japan and apprenticed to a Rakugo artiste. Mr. Sunshine eventually became a notable practitioner in his own right and has the distinction of being a Westerner. Sunshine is affable, animated and possessed of a pleasing fast-paced vocal delivery that demonstrates comic timing and dramatic heft with a Canadian lilt. This vocal expressiveness combined with his shock of jagged blonde hair, striking facial features that he contorts into a gallery of expressions enables him to command the stage. Wearing a kimono, kneeling at a small table and handling the hallowed props of a fan and a hand cloth, he evokes the genre’s essence with assured authenticity. [more]

The Invention of Tragedy (Mac Wellman Festival: Perfect Catastrophes)

September 22, 2019

Halfway through the abstract hijinks there are fleeting references to terrorists, getting in trouble for bringing a little knife on an airplane and vague political debates as the tone grows more serious. Devotees of Mr. Wellman’s idiosyncratic style may be enchanted while anyone else could be baffled. Brevity, playfulness and presentational polish are its virtues. [more]

Derren Brown: Secret on Broadway

September 20, 2019

The shaven-headed, athletic and charismatic Derren Brown is a well-known personality in the United Kingdom due to his award-winning theatrical and television presentations. With his resounding accented voice, engaging showmanship and mystical talents, he commands the stage while appearing in a sleek dark suit, a flowing mystical robe and evening clothes. Mr. Brown discloses that he struggled with his homosexuality before coming out at the age of 31.  This revelation enhances his witty persona, along with other personal data imparted along the way. [more]

Wives

September 17, 2019

Ms. Backhaus’ writing is erudite, well-shaped and imaginative but isn’t funny which is problematic considering it’s intended as a barbed comedy until its heartfelt metaphysical conclusion. Much of it frantically plays out with Monty Python’s intellectualism crossed with Mel Brooks’ coarseness and dashes of Alan Bennett’s pathos. Virginia Woolf figures prominently in one part. Though noble in intent, it’s an unsatisfying exercise that’s more synthetic than profound. [more]

Belleville

September 8, 2019

The small studio theater space where the show is performed with its basic living room scenic design informs director Cameron Clarke’s resourceful and bold staging. Working in such a confined environment with the actors in close proximity to each other, Mr. Clarke emphasizes the piece’s claustrophobic, paranoid and menacing tones with vividness. Unseen ominous events taking place in the offstage bedroom and bathroom incite terror. An open window with shutters becomes a focus of dread, with the outside world represented by eerie red light and sounds of sirens. With the cast’s explosive performances and a command of the visual, Clarke realizes the play’s uneasy power. [more]

Laughing Liberally: Make America Laugh Again

September 7, 2019

The latest edition of the recurring political humor show "Laughing Liberally" is titled "Make America Laugh Again" and is decidedly anti-Trump. It’s created by the brilliant veteran comedian John Fugelsang who is ubiquitous on radio, cable television news shows and comedy clubs. Mr. Fugelsang introduced it and his headliner 45-minute set was the finale and contained many bright spots. Each performance has a different cast in between and at the one under review, five polished comics did their acts. [more]

Felix Starro

September 4, 2019

The score with Ms. Hagedorn’s sharp lyrics and composer Fabian Obispo’s pointed melodies in the manner of Stephen Sondheim and John Kander is quite accomplished with its rousing group numbers and rich solos. Highlights include an eerie sequence with one sick person after another seeking rejuvenation, a Billy Flynn "Chicago"-style bit documenting Felix’s past popularity and an acidic anthem by a mercenary San Francisco female florist who deals in black market identity papers for illegal immigrants. [more]

Contact High: A New Musical

August 23, 2019

Hass directed and his stilted staging is adequate. Simple entrances and exits, cast members going through the theater’s aisle and basic character interactions occur. Some performances are excessively broad diluting the narrative’s impact. Playing a major part in a show as well as directing it is problematic. Hass’ joint choreography with Dana Norris is an uninspired series of rudimentary movement, jumping up and down, moving wheelie chairs around and clunky robotic flourishes. Hallowed masterpieces of musical theater are often alchemical artistic collaborations among a creative team. Without experienced objective directorial oversight, "Contact High" is lumpy. [more]

Sea Wall / A Life (Broadway)

August 20, 2019

On screen and stage Gyllenhaal has exhibited his talent and star quality to great effect many times. "A Life" is not one of those shining occasions as he is just passable in it. Stammering, shrugging and halting like Woody Allen in Annie Hall’s prologue is how he starts off and later alternates jokiness and histrionic emotionalism as the piece’s lugubrious events unfold. This is simply an opportunity for fans of Gyllenhaal to see him in person and the performance succeeds on that level. [more]

Stormy Weather

August 19, 2019

Mr. Wills’ demonstrates a facility for dramatic writing with his snappy dialogue and fast-paced scenario that inspires laughter and also incites thoughtfulness. Amidst the merriment are keen insights into the gay male experience including aging, relationships and promiscuity. "Stormy Weather," though, is more Ray Cooney than Tony Kushner. [more]

Rinse, Repeat

August 10, 2019

Feraud’s scenario is structured as a series of taut precise scenes bursting with sharp dialogue and topical references including an Uber driver with a musical recording on Spotify. She drops well-timed details that advance her agenda of tackling the issue of the preoccupation with feminine physical perfection. We learn of Peter and Joan’s strained marriage that is characterized by resentfulness over financial inequity and past infidelity. Everything reaches a realistic and dramatically satisfying conclusion. [more]

Bat Out of Hell-The Musical

August 9, 2019

The score is derived from the catalog of songwriter Jim Steinman’s "Bat Out of Hell" album trilogy whose songs were immortalized by Meat Loaf. Mr. Steinman’s  accomplishments as a composer and lyricist are monumental. As a librettist he is dreadful. His negligible scenario borrows heavily from "Peter Pan" (a doomed character is actually named Tink), the hoary stilted dialogue is reminiscent of Flash Gordon cliffhangers and it’s all often ill-matched with his iconic songs. Much of it is supposed to be funny.  It all makes "Bat Out of Hell-The Musical" a numbing dysfunctional slog. Very often, on-stage actions are projected on to a very large screen opposite them with characters followed around by videographers dressed in black. We get to watch schlock twice simultaneously. [more]

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

August 3, 2019

As the romantic, tubercular and charismatic Satine, the magnetic Ms. Olivo delivers a ferocious, sensual and grandiose performance that’s one of the most memorable recently seen on Broadway. Her sensational characterization is more Eartha Kitt than Nicole Kidman and all her own. Clad in slinky costumes, the voluptuous Olivo perpetually dazzles. Her titanic singing and dancing is matched by her intense acting which grounds the busy production with riveting focus. Her “Diamonds are Forever” is spellbinding and there’s saucy humor when it’s followed by “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” “Material Girl” and “Single Ladies.” [more]

Little Gem

August 2, 2019

Ms. Murphy’s writing is a rich amalgam of biographical data, pivotal incidents and humane observations. The monologue structure has the three characters alternately expressing themselves in the same recurring order with often all three on stage but not interacting with each other. Through this theatrical device, Murphy enacts her eventful scenario. At 100 minutes without an intermission, it does lag, particularly the introductory portions which too leisurely introduce the characters. However, Murphy does create three zesty roles. [more]

Rock of Ages

July 31, 2019

"Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leppard in a smashing live rendition accompanies a lusty production number at a seedy Los Angeles strip club with scantily clad pole dancers and creepy patrons. It’s a splashy set piece in this uproarious Off-Broadway revival commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Broadway hit "Rock of Ages. " It’s also notable because previously Def Leppard wouldn’t allow their songs to be included in this 1980’s hit singles jukebox musical. “Rock of Ages” in a recorded version is heard after the show ends and the audience leaves. [more]

A White Man’s Guide to Rikers Island

July 27, 2019

Wearing a green prison uniform, the tall athletic blonde curly-headed Mr. Stewart who is in his early 20’s delivers an enthralling performance. Speaking in smooth rich tones that convey a youthful sensibility, Stewart powerfully details the grim experiences of life on the inside especially for a privileged white man.  Not only is he riveting as Roy, Stewart masterfully portrays a gallery of figures Roy encounters. These precise impersonations include his black trans cellmate, a black Muslim he befriends, a menacing Puerto Rican gang member and an amiable corrections officer. Vocally and physically Stewart is impeccable and truly carries the play to success. [more]
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